Creating Character – Squib the Shifter

There are a lot of characters that my brain comes up with, and often it is a single line of inspiration that leads to a character that is fun, sometimes strange, and a little bit off the beaten path. Today, that character comes from another guide to Sorcerers, here. That line is: “Probably something you’d take with Subtle Spell to be a master infiltrator/doppleganger.” Let us see what happened! 

A Shifting Target

That simple line, about taking subtle spell and creating a doppelganger-like character really stuck in my head. I thought it would be great – as he was talking about taking the Actor feat to be great at assuming disguises – to formulate a character based on that specific concept. What if a character was, or simply believed they were, a doppelganger? 

The first goal is to make this a Sorcerer based character with subtle spell. I was likely going to avoid all of the spells with material components, and only cast spells when he could use Subtle, so to continue with the deception of self that he was, indeed, a doppleganger. Disguise self is an early version of this type of deception, but as it was an illusion and not a transmutation, I didn’t want to use it as the basis of the character, even though I could take Warlock 5, grab pact of the Blade, and get Mask of Many Faces for unlimited uses. 

I hemmed and hawed over this version, using warlock 5, for a long time, but it just didn’t click. Yes, I could use this up until I was able to caster alter self, but it didn’t feel the same. Still, though, I kept digging into alternate and complementary abilities. It was around this time that I started peeking through backgrounds in order to see if one wasn’t right for him, and I felt really, really dumb that I’d not found Charlatan sooner. 

Charlatan allows a character to don a second identity, and assume that new identity almost completely. If taken to far, and we’ve all heard of this happening in real life, what if this character, who I’ve taken to calling Squib at this point, had assumed this second identity, and never gone back. What if his original identity is lost somewhere deep in his psyche, and he truly believes himself to be this alter-ego, one that is a powerful shapeshifter. I liked where this was going. 

I’d started backwards, compared to Brox and Varuun, making a character based on their background and history instead of a cool mechanic that would be fun to portray and play. Now, though, I was kinda stuck because I didn’t know what I wanted Squib, or whatever name I was going to use, to do with his skills. I knew I didn’t want him hucking spells around, though, That would shred to his belief that he was a shape shifter by making his subtle alter self spell vulnerable to Counterspell. I also knew that because I’d be using Alter Self as often as possible, that I would never be able to use another concentration spell, and that would solidly limit my spell selection. 

This means that I would need either physical combat or ranged combat, both which I thought would be a bit lackluster. Using weapons seemed pretty lame for a creature that was a shape shifter, wouldn’t it just be cool if I could represent myself shifting into powerful forms to contribute during combat? 

Taking a bit of a different tack, I wandered down into touch spells. What if I was a caster that walked into combat and started touching people with powerful spells to do damage, debilitate and cause problems to the enemy. Well, sadly, that wasn’t really a viable build as I’d be relying on sorcerer, who only has a rare few touch spells, and I’d be limiting myself mostly to the shocking grasp and chill touch cantrips once a round. That was not terribly exciting. 

I looked at a few multiclassing options including rogue and Fighter, but in order to really get good at those, I would have to abandon the majority Sorcerer that I wanted the character to be. 

The Lightbulb

As I was looking at alter self again, I noticed a very oprative word, one that changed how I looked at the class structure and how to get this character to work exactly how I wanted him to, even though I hadn’t know it until now. 

The Last option of Alter Self says this, exactly: 
“Natural Weapons: You grow claws, fangs, spines, horns, or a different natural weapon of your choice. Your unarmed strikes deal 1d6 bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, as appropriate to the natural weapon you chose, and you are proficient with your unarmed strikes. Finally, the natural weapon is magic and you have a +1 bonus to the Attack and Damage Rolls you make using it.”

Unarmed attacks, eh?
Doesn’t the Monk use Unarmed Attacks? 

Turns out, unsurprisingly, they very much do. Now I had a plan. Sorcerer Monk, who fights in close combat with his altered self fists and bashes the hell out of anyone who thinks otherwise. He shifts his self and his body as needed to fit the scenario, and believed in his heart of hearts that he was doing it all out of his natural being. 

Now, I want to be a shape shifter all the time, but alter self is a 2nd level spell, which I don’t get access to until 3rd, so there are going to be two levels in which he cannot even shape-shift. This is difficult for the character concept, but it likely just means I don’t start playing him any earlier than 3rd, which is just fine by me. However, once he gets to 5th level, with 3 2nd level spells and a third level, he will be able to cast Alter Self 4 times in a given day, and that is likely enough, as each one lasts an hour, given concentration. Additionally, since it is a concentration spell and I am going to be up close and personal, I am going to need to take War Caster as soon as is possible. 

With the basic concept and classes down, I’ll just touch on a bit of the specifics before getting into the  Complete character breakdown. 15/5 Sorcerer/Monk does a good number of things towards the end of the build, but its the start of the build setting it up so good that makes it feel really nice. Sorcerer leans towards the Dragon Blood. He grows scales, making him less reliant on three ability Scores and playing into the Shape Shifter game. He also eventually grows wings, which is pretty great, and he gets extra HP, something that a combat Sorcerer/Monk is going to desperately need. For Monk, I really think he takes Way of the Open Hand, though any of the other ways can also work. The way of the Open Hand, though, gives three really interesting ways to use your 3-4 unarmed attacks each round. You can Knock Targets Prone, Push them backward or make them unable to take reactions, and its very easy to disengage from opponents who can’t take reactions! 

Once all this had fallen into place, I started looking through the spells, and noticed that many of them, much more than I wanted from the extremely limited forms of transmutation available to me, have material components. This means that I am extremely likely to need material components in order to cast many of the spells, which means I will need an arcane focus. This is fine, though not really ideal. I’ll likely just make it a talisman or something that he wears that he thinks “helps his concentration” to maintain and adapt his body, without it he is “trapped” in his current less than desirable last state. 

Lets take a look at the Build

This character starts functioning around level 7, though can work as early as 3rd. 

Squib, the Shifter 
Race: Half Elf – Gets a good Charisma Bonus to help with the Sorcerer and is an appropriate size
Highest Stat: Dexterity – This must seem weird, but bear with me. with the abilities he is using, opponents are rarely going to be making spell saves, and he’s always going to be in combat. Dexterity gives AC, To Hit bonus, Damage Bonus and saving throws. It’s the best stat for this character, hands down. 
Second Highest Stat: Wisdom
Third Highest Stat: Charisma
– This setups reliance on three scores will likely mean that you take more AGI’s than feats, which is fine. 
Background: Charlatan
No armor: As a Shapeshifter, Sorcerer and Monk, he simply has no need for armor of any means
Weapons: None/Unarmed attacks
Skills: Deception, Intimidation It will likely be that it is very useful to have a creature that can change form and believes that he is someone he is not to have both these skills for social and character reasons
Sorcerer Origin: Draconic Blood: Though You won’t likely ever use the Elemental Affinity, the rest of the abilities in the path are great. 
Fourth Level Feat: War Caster. This one is vital to the build, and after this its likely to just be a bunch of Ability Score Increases to bolster the pule of stats you need to make this setup work.
Once you have this feat at 4th level, you’re free to start interspersing Monk levels wherever you see fit. 1st level gets you the unarmed attack ability and a number of Chi Points. Once you reach 5th level and have two attacks in a round, Stunning Fist, Slow Fall, Unarmored Movement, Deflect Missiles, and Unarmored Defense, you’re really good to go, but the build just opens up at 4 Sorcerer, 3 Monk

Spells I would lean towards: 
Cantrips: Chill Touch
1st: False Life, Feather Fall, Jump, Shield
2nd: Alter Self, Blur, Enhance Ability, Enlarge/Reduce,Spider Climb
3rd: Fly, Gaseous Form, Haste, Water Walk
4th: Polymorph
5th: Skill Empowerment
6th+ is hard, as the spells he gets are generally offensive and not based off of transmuting himself, which is fine, as it just gives you the power to transmute yourself or others better and more often. 

At this point, you should be able to build a pretty solid character from here, and you understand where I am going with it. I hope you enjoyed this look into how I made this character, and what I do in order to cement the concept. The Half Orc Warlock or the shapeshifting Sorcerer is up next!

Until next time!