D&D Character Themes – The Mighty Thor-Guy!

Thor (Marvel Comics)

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So I went to see Thor Sunday, and while I was watching it, I started to think about how I could make everyone's favorite hammer-chucker in D&D. The key problem was that Thor is primarily a melee beast, but he also has an awesome ranged attack, and his fighting style alternates between the two rather seamlessly.

If it's in his face, he swings his hammer at it, if it's not, he hurls Mjolnir while he advances. I have seen a lot of melee classes acquire a secondary ranged weapon (Dwarven Thrower weapons are very popular), but in this case, it's really a gimmick- something to do when you can't reach an enemy.

I wanted to build a Thor-style character who uses the ranged attack as an integral part of what he does as a matter of course, allowing for that seamless switch in tactics. To date, only a few classes really pull this off:

The Ranger

The Ranger was designed to be able to use melee and ranged attacks equally. While you can (and many Rangers do) specialize in one tactic over another, it's not hard to build a Str/Dex Ranger who is equally at home in and out of melee, especially when Dwarven Thrower and Hungry Spear enchantments come into play.

But Thor is no Ranger- the Ranger's job is Striker, and while Thor is a damage-dealer, he seems a bit more “in-your-face” to me. He's a guy with a high AC who presents a problem to the Bad Guys, protecting his allies. That screams Defender to me.

The Slayer

This is a little more like it- the Slayer is plenty tough, and there are ways to make him a credible semi-Defender thanks to his Fighter chassis. He can be built to use Ranged attacks rather effectively as well. So this is a class I kept my eye on.

As an aside, the Slayer is actually better at switching between melee and ranged tactics than the Essentials Scout-Ranger, and a lot tougher as well.

The Hexblade

Another Striker, the Hexblade has both a very nice melee weapon (in some cases, one of the best melee weapons in existence), as well as ranged powers. While one could describe the powers differently to achieve the same effect, again, this is a Striker class better suited to skirmishing than Thor's general disdain for personal safety.

The Rogue

The Rogue, and his twin brother, the Thief, are very good classes for switching between melee and ranged tactics. Unfortunately, the Rogue classes are a bit squishy and better suited for skirmishing than everyone's favorite Thunder-Guy.

The Seeker

The Spiritbond build powers are designed to allow you to use a heavy thrown weapon in either melee or ranged combat. There's some nice stuff here, and one could imagine Thor as a Spiritbond Seeker very easily. That having been said, being able to smack stuff in melee is an afterthought, and most Spiritbond Seekers would be much happier staying out of melee combat.

Ultimately, what I wanted as a tough, Defender-style character, who innately uses ranged powers as part of his arsenal without skipping a beat. This is what I ended up doing:

The Mighty Thor-Guy”

Human Knight
Knight Option: Shield Finesse
Human Power Selection Option: Bonus At-Will Power
Auspicious Birth (Auspicious Birth Benefit)

Str 16 (18), Con 10, Dex 13, Int 9, Wis 16, Cha 10

Trained Skills: Athletics, Diplomacy, Heal, Nature, Streetwise

Stances: Battle Wrath, Poised Assault

Bonus At-Will Power: Cleave

Feats: Shield Finesse (bonus), Deft Hurler Style, Primal Sharpshooter (Multiclass Seeker)

As you can see, I had to give up some aspects of the original character to make this work. As a God/Alien/Superhero, Thor himself has more character points to work with! The low Constitution is where this is really apparent, and I'm forced to rely on a Background to make up for the hit point deficit, which means I could only use this character in a game that allowed them (such as Living Forgotten Realms). The investment in Dexterity is required for Deft Hurler, one of the linchpins of the build, and the unusually high Wisdom is there to support his Multiclass.

Deft Hurler allows the character to, when using Cleave, replace the normal benefit (Strength damage to an adjacent enemy) with something truly awesome: you can make a ranged basic attack (that does not provoke opportunity attacks) against any enemy in range other than the one you just hit with Cleave!

Thus every turn, Thor-Guy can smack someone in melee, and simultaneously throw his mighty hammer at some other enemy who isn't necessarily anywhere near him! The Seeker multiclass makes this even better, allowing him to use Guardian Harrier once per encounter. Guardian Harrier is a ranged basic attack, so he can Cleave one enemy, and then Guardian Harrier in the same action!

So why Guardian Harrier? Mostly because it's special effect scales with Strength, an attribute Thor-Guy will have in spades. Specifically, it causes the target to take Strength damage if they don't move at least two squares away from their starting position on their turn. This is especially nasty if used on an enemy already in Thor-Guy's Defender aura, but it can also be used to force a brute to move away from one of your squishier comrades. Most enemies will suck up the bonus damage, but that's not a bad thing either.

The other benefit you get from Primal Sharpshooter is Inevitable Shot. Granted, it's only once per day, but it can be quite amusing to see. You Cleave, and make a ranged basic against another enemy. You miss, so you Inevitable Shot the missed attack...right back at the guy you just hit with Cleave!*

*This is legal as far as I can tell, but your DM may raise an eyebrow at such shenanigans, so, as always, YMMV.

At level 1, Thor-Guy probably won't be using his build to maximum advantage, since it involves disarming himself, not generally a good move. Plus, there aren't many good heavy thrown weapons that are also decent melee weapons. Thor-Guy may actually be forced to carry a Trident around, of all things (and more than one, at that!).

Still, the character remains a functional Knight- you can still use Cleave in it's normal configuration, dealing damage to an adjacent foe, so that's still a plus. Your stances were chosen because they work with both ranged and melee basic attacks, so you don't have the control of Defend The Line either. And there's the fact that you only have 9 healing surges, so you may have to take less risks.

Still, level 1 Thor-Guy is a competent Defender, if not a top-tier one. Once he gets his hands on a magic Trident (or, by Odin, a Dwarven Thrower Warhammer!), he'll come into his own, hopefully by (or even before) level 2!

The only real issue with this build is that you cannot use Power Strike with any of your other abilities, meaning you won't get much use out of it until there's only a single enemy. And when fighting a solo, you won't be making many ranged attacks either (although remember that Guardian Harrier can be used in melee, if you happen to be wielding something with the Heavy Thrown property!).

While the real Thor scoffs at using a Shield, there's no reason for Thor-Guy not to use one. One of the big advantages of this build is the high defenses you can get. Let's take a look at Paragon Thor-Guy:

Human, Knight, Crimson Hunter
Knight Weapon Specialization Option: Staggering Hammer

Str 21, Con 11, Dex 14, Int 10, Wis 19, Cha 11

AC: 30 Fort: 30 Ref: 22 Will: 27
HP: 96 Surges: 9 Surge Value: 24

Powers: Battle Wrath, Poised Assault, Defend The Line, Inevitable Shot, Cleave, Guardian Harrier, Secrets of the City*, Healer's Gift*, Shield Block*, Fighter's Grit*, Ravaging Shot

Feats: Shield Finess (bonus), Deft Hurler Style, Primal Sharpshooter, Master at Arms, Superior Will, Superior Fortitude, Encouraging Shield, Stout Shield, Primal Eye

*The Utility Powers are personal preference, and you can switch them out for anything you like. I didn't take Intimidate, despite it having some very nice Defender Utilities, again, from personal preference. Secrets of the City is really only good for Skill Challenges, and Thor-Guy sadly doesn't have the kind of Charisma the real Thor possesses. Intimidate would probably be a better choice to get things like Glowering Threat.

I went with Crimson Hunter as my Paragon Path, to bolster Thor-Guy's ranged attacks. The Path grants, among other things, a +1 bonus to hit with ranged attacks, and another ranged basic Encounter Power in Ravaging Shot.

Equipment is fairly standard, using the quick-start rules, I was able to get the following with money to spare:

Eagle Eye Goggles (Heroic Tier)
Badge of the Berserker +2
Dwarven Throwers (Heroic Tier)
Heavy Shield of Deflection
Dwarven Thrower Warhammer +3*
Summoned Gith Plate Armor +3

*I could have spent a Feat for a Craghammer here, Brutal 2 is nothing to sneeze at, but I wanted to get all the Defense-boosting Feats out of the way to show what you could have by level 11.

Our Mighty Thor-Guy has, at this point, +18 to hit with Cleave, and +20 to hit with his ranged basic attack. He can increase this by +1 with Poised Assault, but most likely he'll be increasing his damage with basic attacks by +3 with Battle Wrath. His melee damage is only 1d10+11, but his ranged damage is much more considerable, at 1d10+16, and, of course, don't forget that he can attack twice per turn.

There's some room for improvement, but I really like the way this build turned out, and I think it has a lot of potential. Maybe I'll even get to try it out someday...

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Dark Reign – Three Issues In

Marvel Comics recently ended their Secret Invasion company- wide crossover with Norman Osborn aka The Green Goblin taking the shot that killed the Skrull Queen and sent the invaders packing.  In the wake of these events, SHIELD has been dismantled and Tony Stark aka Iron Man has been booted from his position.  This leaves the new hero Norman Osborn in charge of the nation's superhero Initiative and his SHIELD replacement agency, HAMMER.  All of these events lead into a new era in Marvel comics... a Dark Reign.  As with any new era, an array of new titles were thrown out into the hands of fans, and I have waited until a few issues of each were in the can until I commented on them.  Granted, I am not commenting on all of the series that have been born out of Dark Reign, only the three that I actually picked up and would recommend to others.

dark avengers

First on the list is Dark Avengers.  This is a book that I would have picked up and supported sight unseen, simply because of its concept.  I have always been a fan of villains as feature characters, and a team of Avengers born of the ashes of the Ellis-era Thunderbolts (Moonstone, Venom, and Bullseye), Wolverine's son Daken, and a few anti-heroes (Marvel Boy, Sentry, and Ares) being led by the Iron Patriot (Norman Osborn in Iron Man armour painted in Captain America's colors) was just too much to pass up.  Three issues into the book and the reader is treated to a team dynamic that I guarantee they have never encountered in any Avengers book.  These first issues deal with the formation of the team and a trip to Latveria to protect Dr. Doom from Morgana La Fey.  The book is written by Brian Bendis and drawn by Mike Deodato and I give the first three issues a solid 4 out of 5 fanboys.  Oh, and did I mention all of the villains are dressed as heroes?  Pick up the books and find out what I'm talking about.

war machine

Second on the list is War Machine.  I have to preface this review by saying that I was unaware of much that had happened to James Rhodes aka War Machine in the past few years, but he's always been a favorite of mine.  The book follows War Machine, who is now in possession of a powerful non-Stark suit which can take objects surrounding it and meld them to his form, using them as new weapons.  Rhodes darts about the globe, from the safety of his stealth satellite, doling out punishment to war criminals based on a computer-generated kill number.  The first three issues deal with the rescue of a doctor from the clutches of mercenaries in a war-torn country.  It is also setting up a supporting cast that I am sure will add another layer of depth to a book that already raises many questions about humanity, war, and what it means to be a soldier versus a hero.  If you plan to pick up the series, I strongly recommend you also pick up the Secret Invasion: War Machine TPB and read that ahead of time.  The series is written by Greg Pak and drawn by Leonardo Manco, whose pictures will make your jaw hit the floor with their over-the-top and gritty quality.  A solid book, but not hitting on all cylinders just yet.  3 and a half out of 5 fanboys.


The last book of the bunch, and by far my favorite, is Punisher.  Marvel decided to end the Punisher War Journal series and reinsert Frank Castle into the thick of things post-Secret Invasion.  The series opens with the title character preparing to assassinate Norman Osborn during a press conference using a stolen alien rifle.  As the plot is foiled by the Sentry, we are whisked along at a cheetahs pace as Frank tries to make his escape.  He is assisted by Henry, a hacker and strategist who sees the Punisher as someone who could cripple Osborn's reign by hitting him in various ways, striking at the dark heart of his empire by taking out his criminal means of income.  The Punisher and Henry arm themselves not only with information, but with an array of stolen equipment belonging to both heroes and villains.  After the last issue, it seems certain that a showdown between Castle and the Hood (the current Kingpin of Crime and Osborn Cabal member).  Written by Rick Remender and drawn by Jerome Opeña, Punisher is a must-read in my opinion and scores a solid 5 out of 5 fanboys for its first three issues.

Be here next week when I toss out a couple old lesser-known series worth looking into.

All images copyright of Marvel Comics.