This column aims to provide players with tips on creating effective and interesting characters of various types. So, whether you're a beginning player creating your very first character or an experienced gamer looking to put some punch into an old standby, this column is for you.
Steeped in a tradition older than most relitions, ordained champions (Complete Champion pg. 90) stride through the chaotic fog of violence and bloodshed. Driven by a zealous devotion to the Herald of Hell and to war itself, these harbingers of death are schooled in techniques of divine magic that enhance their combat capabilities far beyond those of mere soldiers.
The ordained champion is an ancient creation of Hextor, so old that it predates the final schism between the Herald of Hell and his half-brother Heironeous the Invincible. Although ordained champions are known primarily as servants of Hextor, some tiny fraction do indeed serve the Invincible One instead. Heironeous's ordained champions are treated and act much like his paladins.
Ordained champions serve as both lone adventurers and military leaders. Finelann Korenflass need not be a foe of the PCs. As a lawful good ordained champion, he could be encountered as an officer or mercenary on the same side of a conflict as the characters. Because he serves Hextor, however, good-aligned PCs may be inclined to treat him with suspicion until he proves his intentions.
Ordained Champions, Hextor, and Heironeous
Most ordained champions serve Hextor but a few devoted individuals revere his brother, Heironeous. While the text in Complete Champion assumes that the character worships Hextor, this article deals with ordained champions of Heironeous. Whichever power they venerate, ordained champions worship their god and war itself in equal measures.
Heironeous’ ordained champions must have Weapon Focus with either the battleaxe or longsword. Some particularly ancient orders of ordained champions insist that members use the battleaxe exclusively as they believe that this is their patron’s true favored weapon. Such groups can trace their lineage back to a time before the great schism between Hextor and Heironeous. Whenever followers of these two great powers meet, battle almost inevitably follows.
Both Hextor and Heironeous appear in the Player’s Handbook and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer provides more background information on these two deities. Dragon Magazine issue 356 presents a Core Beliefs article detailing the Herald of Hell, while issue 354 presents his brother, the Archpaladin.
Ordained champions have many useful abilities. Here are a few things to consider when building an ordained champion:
- Good Fortitude Saves: Ordained champions have good Fortitude saving throws (PHB 22). Clerics and paladins already have good Fortitude saving throws as do favored souls, making this a particular strength of the class.
- Good Will Saves: Ordained champions also have good Will saving throws (PHB 22). Generally, individuals that qualify for ordained champion already have a good Will saving throw because of their high Wisdom and class mix; clerics, favored souls, and shugenjas all have good Will saving throws. Although a paladin does not have a good Will save, his divine grace ability (gained at 2nd level) provides a useful boost to all his saving throws.
- Good Base Attack Bonus: An ordained champion’s base attack bonus progresses as that of a fighter.
- Good Hit Dice: Ordained champions use 8-sided hit dice, making them tougher than many other characters.
- Special Abilities: At each new level, an ordained champion gains one or more special abilities, flowing from his devotion to his divine patron. These abilities augment both his spellcasting and combat abilities. To improve his spellcasting, an ordained champion gains the following abilities (at the noted class level): bonus domain (1st), modified spontaneous casting (1st), rapid spontaneous casting (4th), and war caster (5th). Similarly, his combat abilities benefit from the following abilities (at the listed class level): combat feats (1st), Diehard (2nd), smite (2nd), channel spell (3rd), divine bulwark (3rd), fist of the gods (4th), and holy warrior (5th). His levels of ordained champion stack with other appropriate class levels for the purposes of turning or rebuking undead. Finally, he can spend a daily use of his turn/rebuke undead abilities to power his smite and holy warrior abilities.
The ordained champion’s advantages come at a price. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about such a character:
- Hard Qualification: Becoming an ordained champion is difficult; in fact, most characters will never qualify for the prestige class. Prospective ordained champions must worship Hextor or Heironeous, have 7 ranks in Knowledge (religion), Weapon Focus with their deity’s favored weapon, and be able to cast magic weapon as a divine spell. Finally, they must be neutral good, neutral evil, lawful neutral, lawful evil, or lawful good.
- Poor Reflex Saves: Ordained champions have poor Reflex saving throws (PHB 22). Unfortunately, clerics, paladins and shugenjas also have poor Reflex saving throws making this a major weakness of the class. Favored souls, however, have good Reflex saves making them slightly better at avoiding such affects.
- Spellcasting: At 2nd, 3rd and 5th level, an ordained champion gains new spells per day and an increase in caster level as if he had gained a level in a divine spellcasting class to which he belonged before becoming an ordained champion. Unfortunately, at 1st and 4th level he does not gain this benefit, meaning that he lags behind pure clerics in terms of raw spellcasting power.
- Skill Points: Ordained champions only receive 2 (+ Intelligence modifier) skill points at each level, making development of a good range of skills a tricky proposition. Arguably, many skills are useful to an ordained champion -- Concentration, Heal, Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (the planes), Ride, and Spellcraft chief among them -- meaning that such characters must make difficult decisions regarding which skills to develop.
Playing an Ordained Champion
Characters that become ordained champions tend to have levels in one or more of the following classes: cleric, paladin, favored soul, or shugenja. However, only clerics fully benefit from this class’s granted abilities (because of the granted bonus domain).
Because the ordained champion only has five levels, members should give some thought to what classes they plan to take after exhausting the possibilities of this prestige class. From Complete Divine: church inquisitor, shining blade of Heironeous, and war priest all complement the class well. Alternatively, for ordained servants who focus on battle skills over spellcasting, the following prestige classes from Complete Warrior mesh well with this prestige class (depending on the character’s proclivity): cavalier, hunter of the dead, knight of the chalice, and knight protector. Finally, Dragon Magazine issue 293 (Living Greyhawk Journal 9) details the glaives of Azharadian, a noble knighthood dedicated to the Archpaladin.
Skills and Feats
An ordained champion does not get many skill points and beyond the 7 ranks in Knowledge (religion) to qualify for this prestige class, he must spend them wisely. Ordained champions planning to cast many spells should invest as many points into Concentration as possible while Heal is a useful battlefield skill, as is Ride for campaigns mainly set above ground. Spellcraft is useful to know exact what enemy spellcasters are up to, while knowledge (the planes) allows an ordained champion to identify enemy outsiders (particularly servants of rival faiths).
Divine feats (many listed in Complete Warrior or Complete Divine) are particularly good choices for ordained champions as they bring more flexibility to a character’s turn undead ability. Divine vigor is perhaps the best all-round divine feat for an ordained champion; many of the others are only effective against a specific type of opponent. Lightning Reflexes improves the ordained champion’s worst saving throw, while Extra Turning allows the ordained champion to use his divine feats and some class abilities more often.
Complete Champion also presents several useful feats for an ordained champion. Holy Warrior allows an ordained champion to deal more damage in battle, Awesome Strike gives him a range of interesting tactical options tied to the smite class feature, and Spiritual Counter allows him to expend a use of turn/rebuke undead to counter another caster’s spell. Finally, Complete Champion presents domain feats: a new kind of feat tied to a cleric’s domains; each core domain has an associated feat. An ordained champion’s exact choice of domain feat depends, of course, on which domains he has access to. Of special note is the War Domain, that grants greater defensive capabilities.
Most ordained champions have impressive spellcasting powers, but mostly they revel in melee combat (at which they excel). Thus, they should acquire a magical weapon and the best protective armor available as soon as possible. While they should carry a ranged weapon (probably a crossbow) for emergencies, their average to low Dexterity scores means that they are far more effective in melee.
They should use their divine spells to augment their already impressive fighting skills, but remember to reserve some for cure spells (because they cannot instantaneously cast such spells like normal clerics). Ordained champions are at their best when leading from the front. Many are charismatic leaders much beloved by their companions and followers.
Sample Ordained Champion: Finelann Korenflass of Oldred
Tall and fair of skin, this handsome human male of obvious Oeridian descent has short light brown hair and gray eyes. He wears an immaculately clean set of full plate armor and has a battleaxe strapped to his back.
Finelann Korenflass of Oldred (CR 7)
Male human cleric 4/paladin 2/ordained champion 1
LG Medium humanoid (human)
Init -1; Senses Listen +2, Spot +2
AC 18, touch 9, flat-footed 18
(-1 Dex, +9 armor)
hp 51 (7 HD)
Fort +12, Ref +4, Will +10
Speed 20 ft. (6 squares), base speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 battleaxe +10/+5 (1d8+4/x3)
Ranged mwk heavy crossbow +6 (1d10/19-20)
Base Atk +6; Grp +8
Atk Options smite evil 1/day (+2 attack, +2 damage)
Special Actions lay on hands (4 hp), modified spontaneous casting
(War domain), turn undead 5/day (+6, 3d6+7, 5th) Combat Gearpearl of power (1st level), scroll of cure serious wounds
Cleric Spells Known (CL 5th; +5 ranged touch):
3rd -- cure serious wounds, magic circle against evil (D, CL 6)
2nd -- aid (D, CL 6), bear's endurance, bull's strength, cure moderate wounds
1st -- bless, cure light wounds, divine favor, magic weapon (D), obscuring mist
0 -- cure minor wounds, detect magic, light, resistance (2)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 7th)
At Will -- detect evil
(D) = Domain spell. Deity: Heironeous; War, Glory (CD), Good
Abilities Str 15, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 14, Cha 14
Feats Weapon Focus (battleaxe), Divine Vigor(CW), Extra Turning, Improved Toughness, Lightning Reflexes
Skills Concentration +9, Knowledge (religion) +7, Heal +3, Jump -6, Listen +2, Ride +3, Spellcraft +7, Spot +2
Possessions combat gear plus +1 battleaxe, +1 full plate
Modified Spontaneous Casting (Ex) Finelann spontaneously casts spells from the War domain rather than cure spells.
Finelann had the following ability scores before racial adjustments, Hit Die ability score increases, and stat boosting items: Str 15, Dex 8, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 14.
Any additional advice you would include for this prestige class? Let us know, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Creighton Broadhurst is a member of Living Greyhawk's Circle of Six and a mad-keen World of Greyhawk fan. He has two young sons (whom he nicknames "Ghengis" and "Khan"). His house is an oasis of tranquility, tidiness, and order. In his spare time, he tries to survive the Savage Tide.