Creating Character: Zeem Althrak – Horizon Walker

The First Thursday of every month, I like to try my hand at creating a cool character or another This month, I finally get to try building a character that I really enjoy – at least in theory – the Horizon Walker/Rogue

The Great Boundry

Horizon Walker is a class that jumps right out at me because of its very simple flavor – Its a class that jumps between the planes, allowing quick teleportation and sudden blinking into existence, attacking from all sides of any defender, dashing into the ethereal plane and back again is just super cool.

This was the heart of the choice to build a character like this. I wanted to flit about combat like a teleporting ninja of doom, and sure enough, because I can’t leave anything well enough alone, I figured out I wanted to add a spice of rogue into it. So, let’s get to it. Horizon Walker/Swashbuckler

Concept Origins

This class had its hooks in me right at the get-go, with a cool concept and badass character art. It looked like something I wanted to play and would like to make work, so I clung to it. Every time I pop open Xanathars, I inevitably fall on the Horizon Walker page, because they seem like a blast to play.

The horizon walker is a Ranger sub-class, so this class can excel at either ranged or melee combat. I’ve done a bunch of contemplating about where I wanted to go with this character, and I really think that, despite the badass art with her holding a bow, this class is much better suited to take two-weapon fighting style due to their distant strike ability, so I started off there, with the ranger.

When building a ranger, there are so many things that are campaign dependant that it is hard to really pin down one sure-fire choice like I do many other builds. Taking the favored enemy and natural explorer that will do the best benefit in your specific game is clearly the correct choice. I’m only going to get to 13th level with ranger, making it my main class, but what I leave on the table doesn’t feel all to bad, because I get the same ability – more or less – as a horizon walker at 15th, I get as a rogue much earlier, lessening the sting.

Fighting Style, as I mentioned, is a key to the concept I have, so I am going to go with two-weapon fighting. I’ll also be taking rogue, so in order to get the sneak attack damage, I’ll have to be fighting with rapiers to get the full benefit, later on, of two weapon fighting and sneak attack. That is a really irritating rant for another day, but we’re going to go with it.

The Spellcasting slots you get as a ranger are rare, and the spells you get from Horizon Walker are really great, but the 4th level spells seem pretty lackluster – except that Horizon Walker gets Banish, one of the best spells. It’ll be nice to be able to tell a creature to get right out when the time comes.

Getting the Horizon Walker at 3rd level allows you to detect portal, which is neat but not terribly impactful, and also grants you, planar warrior, allowing you to turn one attack per round into pure force damage and deals an additional 1d8 on top, boosting to 2d8 at 11th level. Yes, it eats your bonus action, which reduces your overall attacks with two weapon fighting, but it does convert into a ton of generally unresistable damage. This also is one of the big reasons I wanted to take rogue, as it turns all of the damage of the attack into force damage, including the sneak attack. doing 3d8+4d6+dex force damage on a single attack seems just fine to me. If I skip banishment, I can push the sneak attack up to 5d6.

Primeval awareness is simply another tool in the toolbox of the ranger, and extra attack at 5th is a basic function of any melee class. Lands stride makes you better at moving through terrain, as any good ranger should, and hide in plain sight is interesting but seems generally unimpressive.

Horizon walker grants two more abilities, both of which are very good. at 7th you get ethereal step which allows you go cast etherealness, but it only lasts a turn, and distant strike, which allows you to teleport between attacks, up to 10′ before each attack. As Swashbuckler 3 allows you to wander away from enemies regardless of if you hit or not, this combined with up to 3 teleports of 10′ and, say, a wood elf movement of 45′ is just a massive area to cover. You do have to attack a different target with each of the first three creatures, but the bonus action attack from two weapon fighting and the attack from haste (a horizon walker spell) allows you to make two additional follow up attacks against that third monster.

Now, Rogue doesn’t add a ton, aside from sneak attack but it is worth going over anyway. Fancy Footwork, mentioned above, allows you to move away from a creature you make an attack against and ignore opportunity attacks, which is good with this type of hit and run character. Rakish Audacity, though, means you rely only on yourself to provide sneak attack, needing only to be in the right spot at the right time.

Panache will be difficult to use, but I expect it will be awesome when it works. providing creatures with disadvantage to hit creatures other than you, with an unlimited use and 1 minute duration is really awesome, and with your ability to move about combat, it shouldn’t be hard to put it just out of walking range. For next turn, meaning it has to walk and not get there or dash over to you, which is a great lack of action.

Rogue itself, outside of the Swashbuckler abilities, provides for expertise, thieves cant and cunning action, all of which have their uses. Expertise assists in stealth, and cunning action for those times you need to dash and not make attacks. This character has a lot of bonus action abilities, so they won’t lack for options. Uncanny dodge and evasion are two pretty strong defensive abilities, reducing attacks and spell damage by significant amounts.

The combination feels fun, at least to my untrained eye. A Sneak attacking monster from hell who bounces around the battlefield at breakneck speeds, teleporting from one enemy to the other like Nightcrawler and doing sneak attack force damage while avoiding damage of their own through ethereal jaunts, evasion and uncanny dodge.

There is something to be said for taking a single weapon and duelist, because of the Horizon Walker planar warrior consuming the bonus action, but I do like the concept of having that extra attack on hand for when the force damage isn’t needed or doesn’t matter.

The Character

Walking between planes had always been a fairly standard practice for Zeem. He’d been able to see the overlapping worlds since he was 6. It wasn’t always pleasant, but many times it was, shimmering in hues only know to those who could see the portals for what they truly were. Now, he hunted down the extra planar threats that endanger common folk throughout the land, and he is very good at it. Flitting through planes and chasing down these villains had always been his calling, and if he had known that, he would have followed his path sooner.

The Build

Zeem Althrak, Horizon Walker
Race: Wood Elf,  I don’t know, but it seems to me that the abilities of a wood elf simply compliment the abilities of the ranger, making it the perfect combination.
Highest Stat: Dexterity: Its a fighting class, and it’s going to be fighting a lot, but it uses a finesse weapon and is going to be in the thick of things. Better AC and better attacks seem really good.
Second Highest Stat: Wisdom: the few spells you’ll get that require saves will be wisdom. Constitution makes a good argument here, but with a decent dex and a veritable pile of defensive abilities, you should be ok.
Background: 
Armor: Studded Leather: this is the best light armor, allowing your high dex to shine. medium armors will cap your dexterity bonus at +2, and though Half Plate will get you the same AC at the end of the day, it imposes disadvantage on your stealth checks.
Weapons: Rapier, but also think about including a longbow in your kit, for when you need to make others suffer from range. It shouldn’t be often, but there will definitely be the opportunity.
Skills: Athletics, Stealth, and Survival. Well, this is an easy one, because it’s a ranger class. Making sure you can sneak and survive in the wilderness is a pretty solid must.
Spells: 
As a ranger, you’re going to learn right about 7 or 8 spells, through either three of four spell levles.
1st: Cure wounds, fog cloud, jump and hunters mark are my personal favorites, but zephyr strike from Xanathars is a great spell, giving you 1d8 more damage, advantage, and a speed boost!
2nd: Barkskin, darkvision, and spike growth, healing spirit is busted
3rd: Plant growth, wind wall, conjure barrage
4th: None, just take banish from Horizon Walker.

Ranger Archetype: Horizon Walker
Rogue Archetype: Swashbuckler

The path here is a little complicated, as you want to try and maximize the ability to sneak attack and the 11th level Distant Strike. I wouldn’t wait for much more than 12 or 13 for distant strike, meaning you get your one or two levels of thief up front and pretty early, maybe even 3 levels, and then stay ranger until you get distant strike.
Fourth Level AGI: I like Two weapon fighting here, but there is the issue of the planar strike also taking a bonus action, like your two weapon fighting attack. I can see sharp shooter here if you’re going archery.
Sixth Level AGI: for me, this is going to be pushing your dexterity up, which is only going to help your character both survive and do damage.

Zeem Althrak

So, what do you think!

Until next time!