Ultimate Damage Dervish (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
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As far as unreasonably powerful characters are concerned, the Dervish prestige class is definitely up there. Having the ability to make full-attacks at will and roll through enemy squares with impunity is already powerful. But starting with a scout variant? You just built it with greater speed, more AC, and now it's also doing constant skirmish damage with every single attack. If this was just 10 levels of Scout and 10 Dervish, it'd still be a monster, but a level 4 scout, 6 ranger, and the addition of a synergistic feat and a feat for more skirmish damage while moving? We're entering a whole different world of hurt folks. This class is a sneaky, tough, resistant, fast, and altogether incredibly well-rounded foe. Equally at home being a stand-up fighter or a devastating sneak. Nobody wants to be stalked by this guy.
Players Handbook, Complete Warrior, Complete Scoundrel, Complete Adventurer, DMG, Complete Arcane,
-36,000 dex gloves -36,000 str belt -36,000 con ammy -64,000 +8 AC Bracers -50,000 +5 def ring -40,000 ring of freedom of movement -25,000 +5 shirt of resistance -110,000 Manual of Quickness in Action +4 dex -72,316 +1 Wounding Scimitar of Speed -72,316 +1 Wounding Scimitar of Speed -20,000 Luck Stone -2,000 Handy Haversack -12,000 Goggles of the Night -5,300 Boots of Striding and Springing -18,800 Composite Longbow (+4) Flaming Shocking Frost -4,000 Rod of Ropes -98,000 Ring of Spell Turning -20,000 Ring of Invisibility -4800 +5 Nat armor potion (*4) -3750 Potion of Haste (*5) -2500 Potion of cure light wounds (*50) -3750 Potion of fly (*5) -2500 Ring of Sustenance -10080 Cape of the Mountebank
Keep in mind, the huge pile of potions are for if this character decides to solo their enemies. You can solo 5 person parties of equal level to you with this build.
Ranger is non-spellcasting Complete Warrior variant
Starting Ability Scores (Before Racial Adjustments): Uses DMG Heroes NPC ability scores
Str 16 Con 15 Dex 18 Int 14 Wis 12 Cha 10
All points into Dex except 1 into Con
Starting Racial Traits:
Bonus skill points, bonus feat
|Saving Throws||Feats|| Class
|1st||Scout 1||+0||+0||+2||+0||Combat Expertise, Dodge||Skirmish +1d6, trapfinding|
|2nd||Scout 2||+1||+0||+3||+0||Battle fortitude +1, Uncanny Dodge|
|3rd||Scout 3||+2||+1||+3||+1||Weapon Focus (Scimitar)||Fast movement +10 ft, Skirmish (+1d6 +1 AC), Trackless Step|
|4th||Ranger 1, Scout 3||+3||+3||+5||+1||Favored Enemy, Track, Wild Empathy|
|5th||Ranger 2, Scout 3||+4||+4||+6||+1||Combat style (Two-weapon fighting)|
|6th||Ranger 3, Scout 3||+5||+4||+6||+2||Mobility||Endurance|
|7th||Ranger 3, Scout 3, Dervish 1||+6/+1||+4||+8||+4||Dervish Dance 1/day, Movement Mastery, Slashing Blades, AC bonus +1|
|8th||Ranger 3, Scout 4, Dervish 1||+7/+2||+4||+9||+4||Weapon Finesse (Scimitar)||Bonus Feat|
|9th||Ranger 4, Scout 4, Dervish 1||+8/+3||+5||+10||+4||Swift Hunter||Favored Enemy, Skirmish (+2d6, +2 AC)|
|10th||Ranger 4, Scout 4, Dervish 2||+9/+4||+5||+11||+5||Fast movement +15 ft|
|11th||Ranger 4, Scout 4, Dervish 3||+10/+5||+6||+11||+5||Spring Attack, Dervish Dance 2/day|
|12th||Ranger 5, Scout 4, Dervish 3||+11/+6/+1||+7||+11||+5||Improved Skirmish||Skirmish (+3d6, +2 AC)|
|13th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 3||+12/+7/+2||+8||+12||+6||Combat Style (Improved Two-weapon fighting), Favored Enemy, Fast movement +25 ft|
|14th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 4||+13/+8/+3||+8||+13||+7||Dance of Death|
|15th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 5||+14/+9/+4||+8||+13||+7||Greater Two-Weapon fighting||Dervish Dance 3/day, Fast movement +30 ft, AC Bonus +2|
|16th||Ranger 6, Scout 3, Dervish 6||+15/+10/+5||+9||+14||+8||Improved Reaction (+2 initiative)|
|17th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 7||+16/+11/+6/+1||+9||+14||+8||Elaborate Parry, Dervish Dance 4/day|
|18th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 8||+17/+12/+7/+2||+9||+15||+9||Improved Critical||Fast movement +35 ft|
|19th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 9||+18/+13/+8/+3||+10||+15||+9||Tireless Dance, Dervish Dance 5/day, AC Bonus +3|
|20th||Ranger 6, Scout 4, Dervish 10||+19/+14/+9/+4||+10||+16||+10||A Thousand Cuts|
 Other Components
Now, it's entirely possible that a different level progression will net you results that you want more as you develop this character. You could try to round out Ranger and Scout first, but I personally found that it tended to waste skill points that I really wanted to have when I was stalking my enemies later. This is the biggest tradeoff. Finish up Ranger/Scout early and get high damage output faster, but waste a lot of valuable skill points and ensure that you'll never be as sneaky or perceptive as you might want to be. Or finish it up just a little bit later, and grab some higher skills to play a more effective character at the end of the game. But missing big damage buffs and feat progression makes for a pretty hairy end-game. Don't pour all your levels into Dervish too fast. You'll miss the bonus feats that come with Ranger and Scout, and you won't get through the TWF tree until waaaaay too late. I mean, you're still not getting Improved Two-Weapon Fighting until 13th level with this build, which is a huge trade-off for having a high to hit score by grabbing weapon finesse earlier. But you can always *just* attack 3 times for awhile. Your effectiveness in the mid-game sags a little bit because of this, but levels 12 and 13 are absolutely magical, where you jump for +2d6 skirmish up to +5d6 skirmish, pick up an extra off-hand attack, and pick up another Favored Enemy as well. At this point in the game you go from solid and tough to unbelievably lethal and downright scary. Keep in mind that you've still got great AC and you can still pump out lots of hurt, so you're not gonna hold your party back by any means. You're still a power-gamey character by this point in the game, even if you aren't AS power gamey as you might want to be.
Your skills are very important with this build, and I highly recommend putting as many points into Tumble, Spot, Listen, Hide, Move Silently and Survival as you can. You're as resilient as a full-bore fighter with damage like a raging barbarian who can sneak up on most humanoids faster than they can normally walk. You may not be much for schmoozing with the locals for information, but out in the wilderness or in a dungeon, you can play the role of a dedicated party rogue. Naturally, a dedicated rogue will be better than you at it, sure. But you're definitely not going to hold anyone back. And there's a really good chance that you'll provide your party even more situational awareness than a rogue would, with the addition of your incredible speed and tracking abilities, and your Animal Companion (I'd go Hawk or Eagle). The slight downside of any Dervish build is that you have to pour skill points into a skill that won't be good for anything except keeping you dancing longer (Perform). For added mobility and flexibility, consider grabbing some skill tricks.
One thing to keep in mind, you should develop your skill progression ahead of time and stick to it. There's not a lot of crossover between the sneaking skills of Scout and Ranger and the movement skills of Dervish. Try to just take class skills as often as you can. This will mean that some skills you may be itching to use you have to put off pouring points into for awhile. The reason for this is that 3 out of the 6 skills you should have close to maxed (Hide, Move Silently, Tumble, Perform, Spot, and Listen) are only class skills for Ranger and Scout. So there will be blocks where you don't pour any points into tumble for awhile, or perform, before sinking 5 points at a time in. It's all about the math, and being that you're basically a sneak-fighter hybrid with great constant damage and a brutal bite when you strike first, strike first as often as you possibly can. Make it easy on yourself, and you'll be able to solo entire parties. Or build one unbelievable bad guy for your players to fight, DMs.
Another point. Should you play a non-human? There's really no point. Elves and Halflings are decent, but losing 23 skill points and a feat just doesn't seem that great. Lose levels and you lose either a bonus favored enemy or A Thousand Cuts. Lose more and you're not really doing much good for yourself. Unless you go Thri-Kreen. But any DM I know would probably just send a couple Solars after you and make you start over with a new character.
+1 Wounding scimitars of Speed 16-20 x2 crit
+36, +36, +31, +26, +21
+36, +36, +31, +26
damage base 33 -1 CON (12 +6d6 (avg. 21)) Favored enemy (+6, +4, +2) Max avg. 39 -1 CON.
I like averages, so I posted them. Rolling lots of dice and they tend to get close, so it makes sense. If all attacks hit, the average damage without including Favored Enemy is 297 damage per turn. And these to hit scores are so high, so most of them will.
The Swift Hunter feat (Complete Scoundrel) is what really ties this character together on the damage front. It makes the Ranger and Scout levels stack for the progression in favored enemy, skirmish damage and AC. Holy ball-sacks. That's right. Three favored enemies and boatloads of skirmish damage? I'm drooling. The quick benefit is that it takes the class that's really putting out the hurt (scout) and increases the BAB, while adding even more situational damage from Favored Enemy. But it gets even better than that. Swift Hunter makes skirmish damage apply to any creature that is on the Favored Enemy list. I.E. even creatures unaffected by crits take full damage. Undead? No problem. Bunch of Golems? Pfft, who cares? In a campaign with a lot of undead, this is an absolute god-send.
The other notable feat, also found in the Complete Scoundrel is Improved Skirmish. Move 20 ft. instead of 10 ft. and pick up an extra +2d6 skirmish damage and an extra +2 AC. This is simply brilliant. With a class as fast as a combined scout/dervish, with a pair of simple boots of striding and springing you can move 20 ft. for your bonus damage, start initiating your full attack on any number of different characters, and by only taking 5 ft. steps between each attack series, move back to another position, exactly 20 ft. away from your enemy. Boom, you're ready to go barreling into them again with full damage output. And if you just surprised them? The odds are very good with your initiative of +14 that you will get another devastating attack before anyone has any hope of stopping you.
The combination of the +3d6 from your levels and the +2d6 of your Improved Skirmish means that you're pumping out damage comparable to even a full-power attacking Rage/frenzy build. The difference being, you get full range of movement while you're antagonizing the angry brute, while in order to really stomp on you they need to be right next to you.
The +1 Wounding scimitars of Speed are probably the best weapons that this character could use, barring significantly more expensive pieces of hardware. The Speed ability is your best friend, obviously because attacking more and stacking more Con drain and skirmish/FE damage will drop them like flies.
Oh, did I mention the AC? I'd better not forget the AC! So, while moving, Scout gets bonus AC. +2 if moving 10 ft. +4 if moving 20 ft. Dervish gets bonus AC also. +3 AC at 10th level Dervish, and an additional +7 AC above normal when fighting defensively, along with a +8 AC with AOO. Now, you should always, always, always, always, always use scimitars with this build. Dervish turns scimitars into light weapons for all purposes. Except that you can still cleave with them. We'll get into that later! Now, light weapons can all be used with weapon finesse. So you are simultaneously helping your sneaky and acrobatic skills, your AC, and your to hit by taking weapon finesse scimitar *chortle!*. Your AC is insane, and because most of it is Dodge bonuses, nasty undead and mages with brutal touch attacks aren't going to have a fun time with you. Add +8 bracers of AC and a +5 Deflection ring? You're probably not getting hit that much.
Oh crap, how about that +1 attack and damage per 2 levels while dancing with a slashing weapon? That's right. An extra +5 attack and damage, just for doing what you do best. Dancing around showered in the blood of your enemies like a little kid by an opened fire hydrant on a hot day. Kindly allow yourself to reflect on that image for a moment. No, not the little kids creepo!
The Dervish abilities that grant you cleave, and the once a day A Thousand Cuts that grant you great cleave are a nice perk, though you can only use them once per round, and so it's probably not going to turn into some massive catastrophic bloodbath unless you're fighting weak enemies, or you're dropping a whole group of enemies down to almost 0 HP. Of course, that moving great cleave is just amazing, but A Thousand Cuts is a one-off. If you feel comfortable enough to micromanage your damage output like that, more power to you. But when your average damage per attack is 33 and -1 CON, you're still dealing significant hurt with those extra attacks.
Oh, let's not forget Movement Mastery. You take 10s under any situation on Perform, Jump, or Tumble checks. So you can essentially count on being able to Jump a certain distance and know exactly how many attacks of opportunity due to movement that you can avoid before you need to start being cautious. I like it because if you needed to wade through a horde of minions to get to the squishy mage or the un-buffed cleric, you can, and you should. You are at your very best when killing off first the Cleric, and then the Mage. By end-game (Or realistically, by level 15) you can generally take out the three most threatening non-fighter characters in any party in one round.
Oh, and how could I forget! A Thousand Cuts doubles your full-attack! As far as one-offs are concerned, this is about as good as it gets. Yeah, you have to wait a looooooooong time to get it with this build, but because you're so lethal already, you don't actually need it. But for some final series of battles or an end of campaign boss fight? Nothing says, "Great campaign Steve, but you should have made your final fight tougher" like one-rounding the end boss before the rest of your party has a chance to get their swings in.
But seriously, you're averaging 33 damage a swing, without incorporating your Favored Enemy bonuses (that is, if you're using the same scimitars that I use) and because your to-hit is so stinking high, your first 10 attacks or so are most likely going to hit. If you take a skill-trick like Acrobatic Backstab, odds are good that all of your attacks are going to hit.
It is often said that fighter-type characters at the end of the game are not powerful enough. There is a measure of truth to this, but that kind of truth does not apply to this character. You can count on getting targeted with just the same frequency and hate as the Cleric or the Wizard in your party, possibly more. Play aware of that fact. You're a lot of people's worst nightmare.
 Munchkin-Size Me
Well, you could be a Thri-Kreen, but that's just rude.
 Side Notes
This build has a little bit of situational flair associated with it. It's meant to be versatile and survivable, and for this reason, the weapons aren't as powerful as they could be due to the gold allocation. Having some powerful defensive and offensive rings goes a long way to keeping you alive when end-game casters are so unbelievably powerful.
Your will save is not as good as it could be, only a +17 with magic items. And Dervish Dance runs out after 10 rounds. But this is still a very well-rounded and powerful character, even more so with smart item purchases.
 DM Counters
This character eats squishies. It can happily gobble down 2-3 squishies of equal level in one turn. There are a couple ways around this. Play your casters as incredibly smart and paranoid. Lots of countermeasures with alarms, contingency spells, and even clones. Contingency being your best bet, if your caster can dimension door away as they're being attacked, they have time to buff, and then hunt the Dervish with some very nasty spells. Oh, flying works too. Grappling does work, though it's not so easy to hit, and if this character has a functioning ring of Freedom of Movement this option won't work. Probably the best option is to hunt the Dervish yourself. Scrying, flying, and greater invisibility can give you the jump on this guy that's so badly needed to take him down and keep him there.
Remember who to kill first. Clerics, Wizards, anyone who can grab you, whoever looked at you funny or reminds you of somebody you don't like so much, everyone else. In that order.