The First Tuesday of every month, I like to try my hand at creating an interesting character, one that fits a certain archetype or cool concept. This month I’m going to tackle the very first character I ever really played for an extended period of time, Tionas, Weretiger fighter.
I’ve always been a fan of were-creatures, and of tigers. This easily came together in my first ever long term D&D character. Back in the high school days I just slapped a name and some abilities on a character I’d built and called it a day, and 2nd edition was good enough to let me play that kind of character for a long time.
Subsequent editions of the game made the weretiger harder and harder to play, as there were often level adjustments or other handicaps that prevented me from making the character fully realize the concept. I’d long ago abandoned the conceit that Tionas would be immune to all but silver weapons, allowing a greater breadth of possibilities when trying to recreate him, but it never quite materialized.
5th Edition changed that with the Circle of the Moon Druid, allowing me to take two levels in Druid and gain the ability to shapeshift into a tiger. This gave me the idea that I might just be able to recreate my favorite character of all time.
One of the cool things about this build and the 5th edition moon druid is that you can make any character into a lycanthrope if it’s your desire. Wolves, Bears, Tigers, Boars, and Rats are all within reach of a moon druids abilities at 2nd level, tagging every lycanthrope in the monster manual with a 2 level dip into Druid.
Clearly, this means that your first two levels are druid, and then you can switch over to your other class, provided your starts are strong enough. In this case, Tionas is a weretiger fighter, so we have 2 levels of Druid and 18 levels of fighter to worth with.
Let’s Start with Druid because it is the clearest part of the built. Take your first two levels and jump into the Circle of the Moon. This grants you three abilities: Combat Wild Shape, which allows you to shapeshift as a bonus action instead of an action, allowing much better economy on that action. It also allows Combat Healing, which allows spending of druid spells while in beast form to heal, at the rate of 1d8 per level of the spell. You’ll only have two 1st level spells, so it’s not great, but it’ll do in a pinch, and it’s a bonus action, furthermore, making it a simple choice when needed. Finally, it allows your Beast Shape to change you into a beast of CR 1, including the all-important tiger for Tionas.
Once the Shapeshifting abilities are cemented in place, it’s time to start on the real character, and this part is a pretty basic fighter. He wears lighter armor than most warriors, and no shield because in old editions shapeshifting with metal armor just wasn’t a thing. Now, though he could do it, it’s not a direction I want to take the character, as he is very likely to have a significant dexterity score. Maybe I should take a level or two of rogue to give him the flavor of a cat? He’d need high Dexterity, Wisdom, and Strength to pull off the build, but these are all scenarios that are possible with a good enough set of dice and a couple of Ability score increases, so I’ll check back in once I’ve gotten everything from fighter than I want.
Tionas uses a Scythe, which can easily be represented by a few weapons if you need it to be. Pike and Halberd both give it reach, enabling some interesting plays, with either slashing or piercing, depending on how you read the weapon being used. If you’re not of the opinion that it would have reach, and personally I am not, then you’re looking at a reskinned great axe or great sword. Be mindful, though, that it’s a fantasy weapon that wouldn’t be used in actual combat, so trying to find the realism is difficult and likely not worth the time. Any of those three weapons with a new look is just fine.
Taking the first level of fighter nets you both Fighting Style and Second Wind. The fighting style is going to be either Defense or Great Weapon Fighting, and I’ve seen the power of fixing the damage dice on big weapons, so we’ll go here with Great Weapon Fighting. Second wind is healing, which is always welcome, even if you already have a ton of things to do with your bonus actions. As we continue along with fighter, we get Action Surge, a great ability for putting out extreme bursts of damage. At 3rd we have a choice of a couple of different Archetypes, but the one that I want to go with here, for Tionas, is the Battlemaster. It gives an opening to a broad selection of new and powerful abilities to use during combat, though each one is narrower than the simple passives from Champion.
The first Maneuvers to take as a standard Battlemaster would be Goading Attack, Riposte, and Trip Attack. Goading attack is an ability I really value as a fighter, forcing opponents to continue attacking you or to attack others at a significant disadvantage. Riposte is a nice way to get an extra attack in during the round, though they do have to miss you in order for that to work. Trip is the perfect expression of using a scythe, fitting the weapons flavor no matter how it was skinned.
You also gain proficiency with Artists Tools.
At 4th level, you get your first Ability Score Increase/Feat. Unless my stats are complete garbage, I really think that taking a feat is worth it, especially as you’ll get a veritable bucket load of them, with ones at 6th, 8th, 12th, 14th, and 16th. At 5th level, and again at 11th, we’ll get an extra attack. This is one of the key features of the Fighter Class, and getting at least 11th level to capitalize on the sheer volume of attacks one can make is important. At 7th level, thanks to Battlemaster, We gain Know Your Enemy, which is a situational but powerful effect to spend a minute observing the enemy in order to gain vital information regarding how you scale in relation to a target. It isn’t always a useful ability, but sometimes the information gained can be critical. You’ll also get two additional maneuvers at this level, as well as an additional Superiority Die (5). I would take Precision Attack, allowing some of your Great Weapon Master attacks to be more accurate, and Lunging Attack to extend the damage range on the weapon if needed. You can use it on one attack at a time, but that can be nice if you’re moving and attacking, for staying out of threat range while still getting an attack in. At 9th level, you gain the last ability from your direct fighter levels, Indomitable, allowing you to reroll a failed save. It’s not going to automatically succeed on the save, but it is very good. At 10th level, you get two additional Maneuvers (Disarming Attack and Maneuvering Attack) and you’re superiority dice (all 5) go up to d10’s. At 15th level, you get your final two maneuvers (Commanders Strike and Rally), as well as an additional Superiority Die (6). You also have at least one Superiority Die when you roll initiative, thanks to Relentless. The final ability is surprisingly relevant for an 18th level ability turn 20th, is that your superiority die becomes a d12, a significant increase from the early 1d8’s.
Tionas ends at a Battlemaster 18/Moon Druid 2 and starts to really get going about level 7.
For a lot of reasons, I tend to think of Lycanthropes as baseline Human. Tionas is no different, and I would take a variant human to grab Great Weapon Master as the correct choice. You’ll hit less often, but with the bounded accuracy of the game and the limited Armor Class that monsters can achieve, it’s unlikely to be too much of a problem for the majority of the adventure, and the damage bonus you receive is significant
Feats and Weapons
As mentioned earlier, Tionas has always used a scythe and continues to through this edition, and he receives 7 Feats/ASI’s to make the best of it, not including his Variant Human feat. Alert is an excellent feat for going first and getting the drop on the enemy, and Lucky is great to have around for those fateful low dice rolls on Great Weapon attacks. Sentinel is great for being absolutely up in someone’s face and works extremely well with Goading attack. I really like Tough, especially in the early levels when a few hit points matter more, though it plays out through the later levels as well, granting an additional 40 HP at 20th level. If you re-skin the great axe into a Scythe, Savage Attacker is extremely rewarding. I personally enjoy Mage Slayer, because it allows me to get into combat with mages, especially with Sentinel engaged and/or Goading attack to force them into absurdly unfavorable circumstances. Finally, Mobile is one of the best hit and run feats, enabling you to goad creatures and then move over to another creature and trigger the sentinel defensive abilities on them, attempting to lock down two targets a turn.
This is more than simple, and I’ve mentioned it above. Take 2 levels of Druid, and then keep taking levels of fighter until you’re out of levels.
Fighter 18: Battlemaster
Druid 2: Circle of the Moon
Race: Human: Lycanthropes in my mind are strongly human, though I can see them in other races just fine. Default, though, is Human. Also, it allows you to take Great Weapon Fighter at level 1.
Highest Stat: Strength. This should come as no surprise, as it’s a fighting class wielding a heavy weapon. Don’t skimp on constitution, however, as the AC for this character is a bit lower than normal
Second Highest Stat: Dexterity. As a method of damage prevention from both weapons and spells, Dexterity has a lot of pull after strength.
Armor: Here we will use just a suit of studded leather armor and depend on the high dexterity of the build. It also allows the build to use stealth if it’s needed, and not completely fail, which makes sense as a cat person.
Weapons: Great axe, Reskinned to be a Scythe.
Skills: Survival, Animal Handling. As a Lycanthrope, you’ll likely need to know how to survive on your own from time to time. It’s good to be good at it.
Spells: Druid doesn’t really have a ton of spells you’ll use, as your spells are going to be limited to 1st level and most often healing, however,
1st: Animal Friendship, Jump and Speak with animals all enhance the Lycanthropic nature and downplay spellcasting, as the character isn’t supposed to be actually casting spells, but shapeshifting.
Well, That is Tionas, a pretty basic fighter with the twist of Lycanthropy! it’s not all that bad, really!
Until next time,