Rune Champion (3.5e Class)

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Example of a Rune Champion; art by Wesley Burt

Rune Champion (WIP)[edit]

Eldritch Cannoneers originated amongst the Lampir with the discovery that the huge, multicolored crystals that formed in the caverns they called home seemed to draw in magical power from the world around them. This energy could be released via a variety of vibrations, including sound. Although they have never been able to explain the phenomenon, the Lampir were quick to harness it, and before long it was inevitably weaponized by the first Cannoneers. The delay, however, meant that the volatile nature of the shards had already been discovered.

The usual responses to the problem—thick, durable barriers and/or relative isolation—would not work for the Cannoneers, who wished to utilize the crystals in man-portable equipment. After some trial and error, they devised a suit of insulating armor that could also be driven by the shards, minimizing the encumbrance of the wearer—those wishing to use the armor need only be in good physical condition, instead of the absolute peak of fitness. They named this protective gear Shardplate. With the protection of future Cannoneers assured, attention turned to refining the armature assembly the profession was named for.

Within the barrel of the weapon—called a Shardcannon—is a rotating carriage that carries four fans or blades bearing Eldritch Shards, each arrayed in a different resonant pattern. This carriage can align any of the blades to the primary shards via a conductor linked to the weapon's core. This, combined with chants in various cadences and rhythms, is what triggers the device and directs its output—the effects of which have been dubbed "Exigents," or demands upon reality. The extensive studies that first determined the resonant patterns currently in use also named them for the effects that were observed, and thus the blades are named for the pattern they hold: Dissent, Eradication, Tenacity, and Craving. Although the search for additional viable patterns continues, the initial four remain the only ones to work.

Making an Rune Champion[edit]

An Eldritch Cannoneer is a heavily armed and armored warrior who relies on spell-like abilities called Exigents. These abilities come in four categories based upon the patterned blade currently linked to the core shards of the armature, with the complexity of the Exigent and a Cannoneer's control over the power dependent upon the complexity and flow of their chant. The first category is Dissent, which is a basic blade focusing on the manipulation of relatively low-power energy bolts. Next is Eradication, with high-powered and purely offensive Exigents. Tenacity is the sole defensive blade, allowing a Cannoneer to fight longer with less risk to their person. Finally, Craving is a blade best thought of as a last resort, promoting a high-risk but high-reward fighting style.

Abilities: Intelligence is the most important attribute for a Cannoneer, as it is used to maintain their equipment and determine the power of their Exigents. As ranged combatants, Dexterity will increase a Cannoneer's ability to hit a target. Constitution is important to resist the backlash of their abilities should their armor become damaged, and increases their survivability.

Races: Since the Lampir hold the crystals necessary for the Cannoneers' equipment, most Cannoneers belong to that race. However, the Lampir have never been ones to hold their cards to their chest, and have generously distributed the armatures to their allies. Races openly hostile to the Lampir rarely have the opportunity become Cannoneers, but some few armatures have made it into their hands.

Alignment: Any. Cannoneers are generally of alignments typical of their race.

Special: Unless taking this class at first level, there is an entry cost equivalent to Full Plate and a Repeating Heavy Crossbow of the appropriate size (1900 gp for medium characters).

Starting Gold: 4d4×10 gp (100 gp).

Starting Age: Complex (as wizard).

Table: The Rune Champion

Hit Die: d10

Level Base
Attack Bonus
Saving Throws Special Shards
Fort Ref Will
1st +0 +2 +0 +0 Shardbolt 1d6, Shardcannon, Shardplate 6
2nd +1 +3 +0 +0 Shardblast 3d6 6
3rd +2 +3 +1 +1 Shardscreen 5/20 6
4th +3 +4 +1 +1 Shardbolt 2d6 6
5th +3 +4 +1 +1 Shardstream 1d6 6
6th +4 +5 +2 +2 Shardburst 6d6, Shardscreen 5/25 8
7th +5 +5 +2 +2 Shardbolt 3d6, Shardshot 3d6 8
8th +6,+1 +6 +2 +2 Shardblast 6d6, Shardpush 1d10 8
9th +6,+1 +6 +3 +3 Shardscreen 5/30 8
10th +7,+2 +7 +3 +3 Shardbolt 4d6, Shardstream 1d8 8
11th +8,+3 +7 +3 +3 Shardprism +2 10
12th +9,+4 +8 +4 +4 Shardburst 12d6, Shardscreen 10/30 10
13th +9,+4 +8 +4 +4 Shardbolt 5d6, Shardpush 2d10, Shardshot 6d6 10
14th +10,+5 +9 +4 +4 Penetrator 12d6, Shardblast 9d6 10
15th +11,+6,+1 +9 +5 +5 Shardscreen 10/35, Shardstream 1d10 10
16th +12,+7,+2 +10 +5 +5 Shardbolt 6d6 12
17th +12,+7,+2 +10 +5 +5 Penetrator 14d6, Shardprism +3, Vortex 12
18th +13,+8,+3 +11 +6 +6 Lockdown, Shardburst 18d6, Shardpush 3d10, Shardscreen 10/40 12
19th +14,+9,+4 +11 +6 +6 Accelerator, Shardbolt 7d6, Shardshot 9d6 12
20th +15,+10,+5 +12 +6 +6 Penetrator 16d6, Purge, Shardblast 12d6, Shardstream 1d12 12

Class Skills (3 + Int modifier per level, ×4 at 1st level)
Concentration (Con), Craft (Int), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge(arcana) (Int), Knowledge(engineering) (Int), Use Magic Device (Cha).

Class Features[edit]

All of the following are class features of the Rune Champion.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: An Eldritch Cannoneer is proficient with his Shardplate and Shardcannon. In the event that either is seriously damaged or destroyed, he is also proficient with all simple weapons and all armor. He is not, however, proficient with shields.

Exigents (Sp): Exigents are the spell-like abilities that are an Eldritch Cannoneer's bread and butter. Unless otherwise noted, an Exigent is a ray with a maximum range of 60 ft; they do not suffer from arcane spell failure due to worn armor, but always require a verbal chant and are thus vulnerable to silencing. A Cannoneer is not limited by Exigents/day, but by the Eldritch Shards he has available to power his weapon. As a Cannoneer gains experience and upgrades his equipment, he will be able to load more shards into his weapon—the table above indicates this capacity. Removing the old shards and loading new ones is a full-round action; alternatively, he may use a standard action to save only undamaged shells, or a move action to throw aside all of his spent ammunition. Any shards cast aside in the heat of battle cannot be recovered—they either shattered into pieces that are subsequently scattered across the battlefield or are lost in the aftermath. A Cannoneer's reloading is not affected by the amount of shards he has already used in a clip because the armature cannot be made to follow an easily recognizable pattern such as drawing from the frontmost shards first, and charged shards do not glow brightly enough to be easily distinguishable in most situations.

Backlash: If a Cannoneer activates an Exigent while their Shardplate is damaged, or without Shardplate altogether, some of the energy used to power an Exigent can pass through their bodies and scramble their nervous system. This is called the backlash, which Shardplate normally redirects and grounds. The effects of a backlash can be resisted with a Fortitude save, but should a Cannoneer fail to make his save he loses 5 hitpoints, and suffers 1 point of ability damage to Dexterity and Intelligence. When a Cannoneer triggers a backlash, roll 1d12 and refer to the table below for the Difficulty Class of the Fortitude save.

Table: Backlash Difficulty Class[edit]

Roll (1d12) Damaged Plate (DC) No Plate (DC)
1-2 30 40
3-4 25 35
5-6 20 30
7-8 15 25
9-10 10 20
11-12 5 15

Shardplate: A potential Cannoneer acquires a suit of magical Shardplate at first level. This armor is, in many respects, identical to an appropriately sized suit of full plate: for a medium character it weighs 50 lbs, has 10 hardness, and possesses 40 hitpoints. However, it provides only half of the armor bonus (+6 AC for medium characters), imposes none of the penalties to speed, and has a maximum dexterity bonus of +2. For the purposes of backlash, a suit of Shardplate is considered damaged when it reaches half of its hitpoints and is useless when it has none.

Shardcannon: Along with his Shardplate,a Cannoneer receives a Shardcannon at first level. Shardcannons are constructed around a lattice of large crystalline shards, with a rotating armature that aligns four differently purposed blades with the core for the purpose of activating different Exigents. Similar to drawing the weapon, utilizing the assembly to switch active blades is a move action. While it is not designed for the purpose, a Shardcannon is sturdy enough to be used as a melee weapon in emergencies; treat it as a large improvised weapon that does bludgeoning damage.

Shardbolt (Sp): The most basic Exigent is the only one arguably not triggered by a chant, since it consists of only two to four syllables—it is actually this fact that gives the entire art its name, because many Cannoneers call out a simple command in their native tongue, a word such as "exist" or "materialize." A novice Cannoneer deals 1d6 damage with his Shardbolt, and gains an additional 1d6 every three levels; using this Exigent consumes the charge from one Eldritch Shard and is a standard action. Shardbolt is an Exigent of Dissent, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardblast (Sp): Shardblasts are a Cannoneer's secondary Exigents, a more focused version of the basic Shardbolt; it has a maximum range of 20 ft and deals 3d6 damage when he learns it at 2nd level, while requiring three shards. This damage increases by 3d6 every six levels. The incantation for Shardblast is an extended version of the basic Shardbolt, following the same alternating cadence, but is still short enough to be used as a standard action. Shardblast is an Exigent of Eradication, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardscreen (Sp): Shardscreen is a Cannoneer's primary defensive Exigent, and projects an energy shield in the shape of a squished hemisphere. This protects him from attacks in a roughly 160° arc centered roughly 5 feet in front of his Shardcannnon. This shield starts out with hardness and hitpoints equivalent to a medium tower shield (5 hardness, and 20 hitpoints). Every three levels the shield gains five hitpoints, except every third improvement instead gains 5 hardness. Shardscreen's chant is so slow-paced and simplistic that it can be started as a move action, but doing so consumes two shards. Maintaining the shield in subsequent rounds is a swift action that consumes two shards—unless the shield is at or below half of its max hitpoints, in which case it consumes only one—but does not refresh the shield. A Cannoneer can reload his Shardcannon without interrupting the shield. Shardscreen is an Exigent of Tenacity, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardstream (Sp): The Shardstream is a sustained or channeled Exigent that does increased damage the longer it is trained on a given target. It is triggered by a rapid-fire chant with stresses every third syllable, and takes a standard action to begin. On this first round of concentration, it deals 1d6 damage and consumes one shard. The next round, a Cannoneer can use a full-round action to sustain the beam—if tracking a moving target, this requires another successful ranged touch attack. The beam deals 2d6 damage and consumes two shards. This channeling can go on as long as the Cannoneer has the shards required, with each successive round doubling the damage and cost. The size of the dice used for this damage increases by two for every five levels. Shardstream is an Exigent of Craving, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardburst (Sp): Shardburst fires several clusters of miniaturized Shardbolts, and affects a 20-foot cone. It deals three times the damage that your Shardbolt currently deals to everything in the area, although they are permitted a reflex save (DC 10 + # of dice of damage dealt by Shardbolt + your Intelligence modifier) to half the damage. This ability costs six shards to activate, while it has a moderately paced but extensive chant that takes a full-round action. Shardburst is an Exigent of Dissent, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardshot (Sp): Shardshot requires a full-round action and has a chant that strangely increases and decreases in tempo. It produces a very high-density projectile that curves rather prominently, but possesses an external cohesion field allowing it to bounce one to three times before detonating. When an Eldritch Cannoneer uses this ability, he must decide before firing it how many times it will bounce—it costs two shards plus one for each bounce that the Cannoneer has charged it for (minimum one). Shardshot deals damage equal to that which a Shardblast does at the same level, but in a ten-foot circle centered on the impact point. Shardshot is an Exigent of Eradication, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardpush (Sp): Shardpush is a wave of force that repels all enemies from the Eldritch Cannoneer, dealing 1d10 damage and throwing every large or smaller enemy that fails a reflex save (DC 10 + hardness of Shardscreen + Intelligence modifier) back fifteen feet. This effect propagates ten feet in the direction you are facing, or—if you have a Shardscreen up in— a wave ten feet out from the shield. Shardpush is the only offensive Exigent that can be used while Shardscreen is in place. It requires a move action to activate, consumes two shards, and increases in damage by 1d10 every five levels. It is an Exigent of Tenacity, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Shardprism (Sp): Shardprism is a supportive Exigent that creates a sort of magical lens within twenty feet. It costs one shard to create, plus two for each round the Cannoneer wishes it to last because the nature of the prism prevents active maintenance. When the prism is formed, which requires a standard action, the Cannoneer designates two enemies within sixty feet of the Shardprism's location. Any magical projectiles directed into the lens will be duplicated, with one copy directed at each of the previously designated targets. Every six levels, the number of targets that a Shardprism can be attuned to increases by one. Shardprism is an Exigent of Craving, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Penetrator (Sp): Penetrator is an extraordinarily dense Shardbolt that can pass through a great deal of matter before dispersing—it is activated as a full-round action and affects everything in an 80-foot line. The bolt deals its full 12d6 damage to the first target it hits, and each subsequent target drops the damage by one die. Every three levels, the maximum damage of Penetrator increases by 2d6. Penetrator ignores the hardness of objects, and if a target has a shield it first strikes the shield—follow the rules for sundering and use your ranged touch attack roll. This does count as a separate target, and will reduce the damage taken by the foe behind the shield. It consumes the energy from five shards. Penetrator is an Exigent of Dissent, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Vortex (Sp): Vortex creates an imprisoning energy field around a target creature or object before slowing constricting and crushing its victim into nothingness. This ability costs eight shards to activate, but unless the target passes a fortitude save is an instant kill. The Difficulty Class of the save against this ability is dependent upon the size of the target, with a medium target checking against 18 + your Intelligence modifier. Each size class larger a target is reduces the DC by 1, while each size class smaller a target is increases the DC by 1. Vortex is an Exigent of Eradication, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Lockdown (Sp): Lockdown feeds the energy from the Shardcannon through the blade and back into the Shardplate, forming a sort of shell around the armor. This grants a +6 deflection bonus to the Cannoneer's AC, as well as energy resistance 10 to fire, cold, electric, and acid. The range of the Cannoneer's abilities is also boosted by this shell, granting +20 feet to the range of all projectiles abilities and +10 feet to the range of all cones and manifestations. However, the Cannoneer also suffers a -20 foot penalty to his movement speed, which is not offset by the effects of Accelerator or haste. Lockdown costs six shards and lasts five rounds. Lockdown is an Exigent of Tenacity, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Accelerator (Sp): Accelerator works similarly to Lockdown, but charges different Shardplate mechanisms, and does not shield the Cannoneer—in fact, some small part of this energy is deliberately leaked through the shell to temporarily enhance the wearer. Accelerator costs six shards and lasts three rounds. An Eldritch Cannoneer under the effects of Accelerator doubles his movement speed, and can activate his Exigents faster; a full-round Exigent requires a standard action, a standard Exigent requires a move action, and a move Exigent requires a swift action. They also gain a +20 bonus to all Climb, Jump, Swim, and Tumble checks. Accelerator is an Exigent of of Craving, and can only be used when that blade is active.

Purge: (Sp): Purge is a sort of last resort, and relies on overloading the Shardcannon by spinning the blade assembly. Channeling any energy into the rapidly changing blade and shard matrix draws all remaining energy from the gun into a powerful and chaotic surge of Eldritch power so intense that it overcomes the imperfection of the Cannoneer's art form and deals damage of the appropriate energy types. Purge takes the form of a thirty-foot cone that imparts a random effect or damage value from the table below to each affected target—the DC is equal to 10 + # of shards consumed by Purge + your Intelligence modifier. Roll 1d6 for each affected creature and refer to the table below for the effects:

Table: Purge Effects[edit]

Roll (1d6) Applied Effect
1 Struck by two effects; roll twice more, ignoring any "1" or "6" results
2 Struck by Dissent; take 60 electric damage (reflex halves), disintegrated if killed
3 Struck by Eradication; explosion for 15 fire damage to all targets within 5 feet
4 Struck by Tenacity; 15 force damage, knocked back 30 ft (reflex halves) and Dazed on impact
5 Struck by Craving; energy drained for 5 negative levels (fortitude negates, each level saved separately)
6 Struck by three effects; roll thrice more, ignoring any "1" or "6" results

Epic Rune Champion[edit]

Table: The Epic Rune Champion

Hit Die: d10

Level Special
21st Shardscreen 15/40
22nd Shardbolt 8d6
23rd Penetrator 18d6, Shardprism +4, Shardpush 4d10
24th Bonus Feat, Shardburst 24d6, Shardscreen 15/45
25th Shardbolt 9d6, Shardshot 12d6, Shardstream 2d6
26th Penetrator 20d6, Shardblast 15d6
27th Shardscreen 15/50
28th Bonus Feat, Shardbolt 10d6, Shardpush 5d10
29th Penetrator 22d6, Shardprism +5
30th Shardburst 30d6, Shardscreen 20/50, Shardstream 2d8

3 + Int modifier skill points per level.

Shardbolt (Sp): Shardbolt continues its damage progression, gaining 1d6 every three levels.

Shardblast (Sp): Shardblast continues its damage progression, gaining 3d6 every six levels.

Shardscreen (Sp): Shardscreen continues its progression, improving every three levels and in increments of five—two boosts to hitpoints alternating with one to hardness.

Shardstream (Sp): Shardstream continues its damage progression, incrementing the die size by 2 every five levels. Whenever Shardstream would go beyond a d12, however, the base damage instead gains another die and returns to using a d6. This prevents it from using awkward die sizes, and while it does not increase its maximum damage it gives a better average value.

Shardburst (Sp): Shardburst continues its damage progression, gaining 6d6 every six levels.

Shardshot (Sp): Shardshot continues its damage progression, gaining 3d6 every three levels.

Shardpush (Sp): Shardpush continues its damage progression, gaining 1d10 every five levels.

Shardprism (Sp): Shardprism continues its progression, gaining an additional target every six levels.

Penetrator (Sp): Penetrator continues its progression, gaining an additional 2d6 max damage every three levels.

Bonus Feats: The epic Eldritch Cannoneer gains a bonus feat (selected from the list of epic Eldritch Cannoneer bonus feats) every four levels after 20th.

Epic Eldritch Cannoneer Bonus Feat List: Epic Fortitude, Epic Prowess, Great Constitution, Great Dexterity, Great Intelligence, Superior Initiative.

Lampir Eldritch Cannoneer Starting Package[edit]

Weapons: Shardcannon.

Skill Selection: Pick a number of skills equal to 3 + Int modifier.

Skill Ranks Ability Armor
Concentration 4 Con
Craft 4 Int
Intimidate 4 Cha
Knowledge (arcana) 4 Int
Knowledge (engineering) 4 Int
Use Magic Device 4 Cha

Feat: Weapon Focus(Shardcannon).

Bonus Feats: <-1st-level feat bonus feats due to sample race? remove this section if this sample doesn't get any bonus feats at 1st level. ->.

Gear: Shardplate, Eldritch Shard x6, Ammunition Pouch, Bedroll, Canvas (2 sq yards).

Gold: 3d4 gp.

Campaign Information[edit]

Playing an Eldritch Cannoneer[edit]

Religion: <-description of how this class typically (but no exclusively) approaches religion including likely portfolios it would worship->.

Other Classes: <-How this class typically interacts with other classes and how characters of this class interact with characters of other classes->.

Combat: <-Typical role in combat->.

Advancement: <-Typical advancement options for characters with this class. Include desirable multiclass options->.

Rune Champions in the World[edit]

<-Some quote from a character of this class->
—Drosc, Lampir Kalerova

<-Where characters of this class fit in a d20 world.->

Daily Life: <-day in the life of a character of this class->.

Notables: <-notable NPCs of this class->.

Organizations: <-info on what, where, when, and how characters of this class congregate and assemble->.

NPC Reactions: <-How NPCs react to PCs of this class->.

Rune Champion Lore[edit]

Characters with ranks in Knowledge(arcana) and/or Knowledge(engineering) can research Eldritch Cannoneers to learn more about them. When a character makes a skill check, read or paraphrase the following, including information from lower DCs.

Knowledge(arcana) / Knowledge(engineering)
DC Result
5 Eldritch Cannoneers originated amongst the Lampir, and utilize shards of the huge magical crystals that form in the caverns the call home.
10 These shards are used to power the Shardplate and Shardcannon of a Cannoneer, but are an imperfect form of magic, so their Exigents do not usually deal damage of any particular elemental energy type.
15 The Exigents of a Cannoneer are controlled by both their voice and their weapon. A Shardcannon carries four "blades" studded with different patterns of eldritch shards that resonate in different fashions. More fine control is provided by chants of various cadences, stress patterns, and tempos.
20 The words of these chants matters not, because the shards respond to the rhythmic sonic nature of the chants. Unfortunately, this means that the shards are extraordinarily vulnerable to sonic attack, and the massive stores of energy that a significant stockpile of them are susceptible to a catastrophic release by attacks from powerful sonic spells. Shardplate meltdowns have been known to destroy entire city blocks in these situations.

Rune Champions in the Game[edit]

Eldritch Cannoneers are heavily armed and armored ranged combatants that are commonly found as City Watch officers, particularly amongst the Lampir. In more rural areas, they may take the role of a country Sheriff, and oversee the war on crime in a small town and surrounding hamlets. They are also found as heavy infantry in the militaries of races allied with the Lampir.

Adaptation: For settings with a more traditional take on magic, it might be appropriate to restore the typing of energy to an Eldritch Cannoneer's Exigents. As the astute reader will have realized from the text of Purge, each blade is already meant to reflect a specific energy type, so this is a simple process. Dissent becomes electric; Eradication is fire; Tenacity applies force damage; and Craving would be negative energy.

Sample Encounter: <-DM placement for NPCs of this class.->.

EL : <-Encounter scenario and character info on sample NPC including stat block. The CR of the NPC is typically the same as the EL for the encounter.->.

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