I'm going to 2nd edition's The Complete Bard's Handbook once again for this week's column (see also Halfling Whistler), as well as spicing up my favorite demihuman race of all time—dwarves. I always thought there should be a special role for dwarven bards in the game, because I see them as a deeply spiritual race whose natural environment has great acoustic potential. The dwarven chanter is a fascinating archetype, but the question on the table: can you make a playable character based around chanting and endurance-based abilities? Well, that's what I'm here to find out.
As always, feel free to leave feedback over on the message boards, or to me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, let me know which kits, classes, and prestige classes from earlier editions of the game you'd like to see me take on for an update. Now, what's that deep droning sound I hear coming down the hall...?
The legendary power of the dwarven chanters has been the source of much scholarly and religious speculation. Many attribute the very success of the dwarven race to this special gift. Ancient dwarven lore speaks of chanters who led their people through the cavernous trails for weeks at a time, allowing them to outpace enemies who would have surely destroyed them. Other tales speak of incredible mining expeditions that returned with five times the yield thought possible, made possible by employing chanters with their mining groups.
Chanters work as foremen, clergy, advisors, and military personnel. Wherever they go, chanters are able to bring aid and prosperity with them, and no large dwarven army or community is without several of these powerful allies. Some chanters choose to take up the adventuring life, often to spread the word of their gods or assert the power and relevancy of the dwarven race. Many were adventurers before they were called to this path and are simply continuing their journeys, albeit with newfound abilities and powers far surpassing what they had achieved before.
Becoming a Dwarven Chanter
Entry Requirements: dwarf; Constitution 13; Concentration 8 ranks, Perform 8 ranks (chant, percussion); Great Fortitude; bardic music class ability.
Hit Die: d6.
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level): Appraise, Balance, Bluff, Climb, Concentration, Craft, Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Disguise, Escape Artist, Gather Information, Hide, Jump, Knowledge (all skills, taken individually), Listen, Move Silently, Perform, Profession, Sense Motive, Speak Language, Spellcraft, Survival, and Use Magic Device.
As they advance in level, dwarven chanters grow stronger and sturdier as the tones of their chants penetrate the core of their being.
Spellcasting: At each level, a chanter gains new spells per day and spells known (if applicable) as if he had also gained a level in a spellcasting class to which he belonged before adding the prestige class level. He does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained. If he had more than one spellcasting class before becoming a chanter, he must decide to which class to add each level for the purpose of determining spells per day and spells known.
Chanting: A chanter uses percussion and rhythmic vocalizations to produce magical effects. Chanting follows the same rules as bardic music (see page 29 of the Player's Handbook). Each use of chanting costs one daily use of bardic music to activate. Dwarven chanter levels stack with bard levels for purposes of determining the number of daily uses of bardic music and chanting.
Timing Chant (Su): A chanter with 8 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his rhythmic chanting to aid laborers in tedious, repetitive work. The four most common timing chants are the Miner's Song, the Forger's Steel, the Marching Tune, and the Labor Song. In order to initiate a timing chant, the chanter must chant for a full minute while accompanying himself on a percussion instrument. During this time, all who wish to be affected must join the chant and continue to accompany the chanter for the duration of the effect.
The effect of this chanting is to increase the speed and production capabilities of the affected individuals. A chanter confers a +2 bonus per class level to any checks related to the activity at hand. A military unit might gain a bonus on Constitution checks on a forced march, or a group of miners might receive a bonus to their Profession checks to determine the value of their work.
The timing chant is not without a physical toll for those involved, however. At the beginning of each new hour, the chanter must make a Perform check (DC 10 + number of hours worked). If successful, he continues to inspire his fellows. If he fails his check, however, the chant falters. Anyone affected by the timing chant (including the chanter) must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 5 + number of hours worked) or be forced to stop whatever he is doing and rest as if the timing chant had ended (see below). The chanter may continue the chant with a DC 20 Perform check, and all who succeeded on their Fortitude saves can continue their task; if he fails, the timing chant ends immediately.
At the end of a timing chant, all affected individuals are dazed until they rest completely for one hour per hour worked. No magical healing or abilities such as the soothing chant will reduce the amount of time needed to shake off the effects of a timing chant.
Soothing Chant (Su): A chanter of at least 2nd level with 10 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his chanting to calm and relax his comrades, speeding the natural healing process.
To activate this ability, the chanter must chant for one full hour and be within 60 feet of any character that he wishes to affect. Characters under the influence of a soothing chant may not walk around, memorize spells, heal themselves, eat, or perform any activity other than rest; otherwise they lose the benefits of the chant.
At the end of the chant, beings affected by the soothing chant recover one hit point per hit die and recover all nonlethal damage. Also, any exhausted, fatigued, or nauseated characters are relieved of those conditions. All Heal checks made within 10 minutes of the end of a soothing chant gain a +2 circumstance bonus.
War Chant (Su): A chanter of at least 3rd level with 11 or more ranks in a Perform skill can inspire his allies and demoralize his foes by leading a fearsome chant in combat. Similar to the bard's inspire courage ability, a war chant not only provides bonuses to his allies but also imposes penalties on his enemies due to the fearsome effect of the chant. Allies of the chanter must participate in the chant and be able to hear the chanter to be affected; enemies must only be able to hear the chanting.
Affected allies gain a +1 bonus morale bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, and saving throws against charm and fear effects. Enemies suffer a –1 penalty on attack and damage rolls. The war chant lasts as long as the chanter maintains his song, during which time he may fight but cannot cast spells, or activate magic items by spell completion or command word.
Healing Chant (Su): A chanter of at least 8th level with 16 or more ranks in a Perform skill can use his rhythmic song as a method for biofeedback. By attuning his chant to the natural rhythms of his body, he stimulates his body to hear damage very quickly.
It is a full round action to initiate the healing chant, which can be sustained until the chanter is at full hit points, at which time it fails. During the healing chant, the character has fast healing 1.
Dwarf Lord's Wrath (Su): A chanter of 10th level with 18 or more ranks in a Perform skill can channel the power of the earth itself by vocalizing the natural vibrations of the land around him.
He must be in contact with the earth for five consecutive rounds while he chants this powerful song, and if he takes damage during this time he must make a Concentration check as if casting a spell. After the 5th round, the chanter channels the power he's summoned to shake the foundations of any structure in contact with the earth.
During each round that the chant continues, to a maximum number of rounds equal to his Constitution score, the chanter may deal 10d6 points of damage to one natural or constructed structure within 500 feet. This may include trees, a mountain, a castle, a building, or any other such structure in contact with the ground. Obviously the chanter will not be able to topple a mountain, but he may deal it enough damage to allow entry into a formerly blocked passage, or create a massive cave-in to impede some subterranean horror. He may shift targets as often as he likes as a full-round action as long as the chant remains unbroken.
Other than changing targets, the chanter may perform no action other than moving his base speed each round.
Endurance: At 2nd level, the chanter gains Endurance as a bonus feat.
Counter Chant (Su): At 4th level, the chanter gains the ability to "attack" existing spells. By performing a powerful counter chant, the chanter can temporarily suspend magical effects. This works exactly as if the character was casting dispel magic, except that it does not actually dispel the effects on a successful level check, it merely suspends them for as long as he continues to chant. The chanter can only attempt this once per magical effect. Note that it is a standard action to continue the counter chant each round.
Each use of counter chant takes one daily use of bardic music to activate.
Die Hard: At 6th level, the chanter gains Die Hard as a bonus feat.
Continuous Spellcasting (Ex): At 5th level, the chanter is able to boost his concentration by focusing his mind on his song, thus ignoring distractions while spellcasting.
While he is reciting this special song, the chanter need not make additional Concentration checks when casting spells for the duration of the chant. In addition, the chant acts as the verbal component of any spell he casts for its duration.
The chanter begins this chant by making a DC 15 Concentration check as a standard action; he is able to maintain incredible focus for one round per point by which he succeeds on this check.
Trance: At 7th level, the chanter learns to focus his mind so keenly on one task that he can perform the task indefinitely. After 10 minutes of uninterrupted meditation, the chanter shuts down all mental and physical functions that aren't necessary for the task at hand. At this point the chanter will begin the set activity (marching, mining, studying, combat, etc.) until a preset condition occurs. For instance, the chanter may have entered a trance to "read until I have read every book in the library."
Trances are never entered lightly, however, because they present a danger to the chanter. The chanter does not eat, drink, or sleep during the trance, straining his body to endure the lack of these vital functions. For every four hours that go by, the chanter must make a Fortitude save (DC 15 + number of previous saves). On a failure, he takes 1d4 points of Constitution damage. A character brought to 0 Constitution in this way dies immediately. A character may not voluntarily end a trance until the preset condition occurs.
Had a chance to try out this prestige class? Let us know your thoughts, on how it played – or what changes you would make to it, at email@example.com.
About the Author
Wil Upchurch is co-author of the acclaimed Midnight campaign setting, and a contributor to the Forgotten Realms and Dungeons & Dragons. There's pretty much nothing he won't write for money, and pretty much nobody who will pay him to do so. So, he spends most of his free time playing Dreamblade and evangelizing Nickel Creek.
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