Creating A Character That Can’t Be Killed

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on June 25, 2010

I’ve been perusing the D&D Player’s Strategy Guide since I received it as a Father’s Day gift this past Sunday. My reading hasn’t been focused on building the best character, as I have already done that. Of course my best character may not be your best character and that’s ok, I forgive you your delusions.

One of the interesting sections in the Player’s Strategy Guide is the “How To” section that runs through page 62 – 81. The section covers everything from gaining the highest initiative, being the best healer and having the most hit points. What it doesn’t offer is how to build a character that can’t be killed. As a result here is my take on how to build a character that simply won’t die. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll run some variations on this theme of “How To”.

Class

When attempting to build this type of character it might be tempting to pick the class that provides the more hit points or the highest defenses. Defenders easily fall into this category and they make a good choice. In my mind any class can be built so it can’t die, though some will have inherent advantages that others don’t. The class I’ve selected is the Assassin which will become a little more apparent when I discuss some of the powers available.

Race

In building a character that can’t die selecting a race that’s already dead is a good place to start. The Revenant brings some interesting racial features to the table that allow you to keep your PC alive much longer than anyone deserves. Additionally, the Revenant receives a bonus to Constitution and the Endurance skill.

Dwarves and Warforged make good alternate options which also receive a bonus to Constitution and have unique ways to gain healing. Dwarves are able to use Second Wind as a minor action, and Warforged can take Warforged Resolve to gain temporary hit points.

Feats

Any feat that grants extra hit points, more healing surges or higher defenses is going to keep you alive longer.

  • Durability
  • Dwarven Durability
  • Toughness
  • Defensive Mobility

These feats are all solid considerations which will keep your PC on his feet. However, as good as these feats are they will only keep you alive a few more rounds, alone they won’t allow you to avoid death. For that you need to dig a little bit deeper

This is where the Revenant shows its strength again. Revenants have the racial power Unnatural Vitality, which allows them to choose to make one standard action when they are dropped to zero hit points before they fall unconscious and make their first death saving throw. This is a great class feature that has several feats built around it. The first feat is Death’s Quickening that allows a minor action in addition to the standard action. The second feat is Death Scorned, which increases the amount of death saves the Revenant can make before dying to 1 + Con modifier (5 max). While I disagree with the maximum number, this feat allows a Revenant to avoid dying for 2 rounds longer than any other race assuming every death save is a failing roll. If you’re avoiding death, two more death saves is a great place to start.

Paragon Path

There are a number of Paragon Path’s that could be selected. Some, like the Dreadnaught, grant more hit points. The Paragon Path that I prefer is the Revenant racial Paragon Path, Avenging Haunt. At level 16 this Paragon Path allows you to stay conscious with your Unnatural Vitality until you die. This Paragon Path combined with the Death Scorned feat allows the Revenant to continue acting for five more rounds after hitting zero hit points. This assumes that along the way the Revenant doesn’t roll high enough to expend a healing surge via the death save system, or use their second wind or receive healing in some other form. In short assuming your PC gains no extra healing he won’t die until reaching his bloodied value as expressed in negative hit points.

Magic Items

There are a number of magic items that can aid in keeping your character alive, below is a small sample.

  • Cloak of the Walking Wounded allows the PC to expend two healing surges instead of one when using the Second Wind option. It’s a great way to go from bloodied to close to full hit points quickly.
  • The Raven Cloak grants resistance to cold and necrotic. The real advantage to this cloak is the daily property that allows a re-roll (with bonus) to any failed saving throw. If that saving throw was a death save there is a +10 bonus to the roll. At worst your condition doesn’t change and at best you have a 50% chance of expending a healing surge.
  • A Ring of Invigoration allows the PC to expend a healing surge as a free action if they are reduced to zero hit points.

Powers

As I mentioned above I’ve built my character around a Revenant Assassin. In selecting powers I was careful to select ones that allow for movement through teleportation, in many cases allowing me to teleport or take two movement actions per turn while still getting a standard action to attack. Additionally, several Assassin powers allow the PC to go insubstantial and all damage taken in this form is halved which is a great way to live a little longer. In looking to create a PC who is able to laugh at death any powers that grant bonuses to defenses or temporary hit points should be high on the list.

Focusing your utility powers on skill powers based on endurance is another way to keep your PC in the fight. Many are immediate actions that either grant the use of healing or damage resistance. You might not use them often, but when you do they will keep you alive a few more rounds.

This is my take an a character that can’t be killed. While the full stat block hasn’t been presented I think enough of an idea is present to demonstrate the characters ability to survive. Have you experimented with the idea of creating a PC that can’t be killed? Have you created a PC who is extremely resilient and durable? What builds have you utilized in designing the PC?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tony Miller June 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

Awesome build!

The only thing that I would add is to have you Revenant worship the Raven Queen and take the Raven Knight Epic Destiny or make him a Shadar Kai as well and taker the Raven Consort Epic Destiny.

The Raven Knight gives you a -2 penalty to all adjacent foes that attack you, a bonus to Con, Dex and speed, and more hp in addition to some a sweet teleport and a nasty daily that turns your weapon into a Dark Scythe.

The Raven Consort gives you a bonus to Con and more hp, but more importantly it gives you a cumulative +2 to defenses and saves for each death saving throw that you make in an encounter. That pretty much makes you the Terminator. (not to mention other impressive epic level feats and items)

2 mbeacom June 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

I’ve actually never attempted a build like this. Most of my characters that see any real amount of playing time have been built to play a certain role in the group, or provide powers/feats I wanted to tinker with in combat, while still attempting to be somewhat versatile. It’s funny, I don’t know why I’ve not thought of this. I mean, I’ve previously played around with maximizing my healing potential as a cleric, or damage potential as a fighter. I suppose this is a logical extension of that. Makes me want to design more singular-focus characters. Good food for thought. Also, this sounds like a pretty damn fun build to actually play, even beyond the staying alive bit.

3 Dan June 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I’ve found real success playing a dwarf avenger that dabbles in healing with his channel divinity. Specifically, the Amoth’s Grace feat adds a BIG bonus to survivability. The ability to effectively spend two healing surges in one round makes him virtually indestructable and immune to spike damage from crits. First, the Amoth’s Grace feat allows the avenger to spend a healing surge as an immediate reaction when the character is crited or bloodied. Second, the dwarf is able to use a second wind as a minor action – so he is able to double the heals once per encounter and is still able to attack as a striker. Also, any multi-classing into a leader (cleric or warlord for example) or any ability that recharges the channel divinity ability would further enhance his healing/resilience without sacrificing a striker’s damage. High damage output with healing ability seems to me to be the ultimate unkillable character combo, but I do also see damage mitigation as a feasable alternative to the self-healing alternative.

4 Wimwick June 25, 2010 at 12:38 pm

@ Tony Miller
Thanks! My PC is only 13th level so I haven’t actually started looking at what Epic Destinies could further this build. Thanks for the two suggestions, I’ll be sure to look into them.

@ mbeacom
The character is a lot of fun to play. It’s also very interesting to see what happens in combat as I either take a lot of damage or no damage. Part of this is due to the ability of our defender, the other half is determined by the terrain and how hot my dice are. If I’m rolling well the PC becomes more of a target. Our current party breakdown is one defender, one controller and three strikers. As I’m the only melee striker building a character that would be tough to kill became a bit of a focus.

5 mbeacom June 25, 2010 at 12:46 pm

“As I’m the only melee striker building a character that would be tough to kill became a bit of a focus.”

If the above writeup is what you call “a bit of a focus”, I can’t even imagine what you could come up with if you got seriously focused. ;)

6 Wimwick June 25, 2010 at 1:16 pm

@ Dan
Great points about healing tied to high damage. Certainly building a true healer would be a way to stay alive. Knowing we didn’t have a leader in the party my focus became mitigation and avoidance. The Staff of Resilience is a great item, spend a healing surge and gain twice your surge value in temporary hit points. It’s a great way to buff up during the first round of combat.

7 Dan June 25, 2010 at 4:05 pm

@ Wimwick
I wholeheartedly agree, building a pure leader or defender would obviously make for the best combination of abilities in terms of “unkillability”. But, I think the more intriguing idea of taking a class of a non-traditional roll, like a striker or controller, and turning it into a “hard to kill” character is more the focus of this excercise. Of course, any class that has the channel divinity ability can benefit from the Amoth’s Grace feat, which gives the devine-powered classes a powerful tool…

8 OpenPalm June 25, 2010 at 4:58 pm

IIRC, Shadar-Kai have a feat that lets you reduce damage by 5+ Con modifier at epic if an attack would reduce you to 0 or fewer. With that, it’s going to be tough to actually get you to negative bloodied value if you have Shadar-Kai soul. Building up a death save bonus would also be sweet, and there are ways to make sure you pretty much can never fail a save. With Raven Consort, it means you can stay dying for a really long time and then just heal up when the battle is over.

9 NthDegree256 June 25, 2010 at 5:48 pm

For what it’s worth, you left out the best part about Warforged when it comes to not dying: They literally cannot fail death saving throws unless someone is giving them a save penalty. This was a very nice boon to the Warforged wizard in my campaign early on, when he would drop unconscious every other fight. :)

10 Swordgleam June 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm

It’s an interesting exercise, but I’m pretty sure I can tell you why it’s not in the book: it’s self-centered. Not necessarily selfish, though it could be done that way, but centered around the character. 4e is a team game.

In an ideal 4e world, you won’t die because your party defender will keep the damage off you and your striker will kill the high-damaging thing and your controller will move enemies away from you and your leader will heal you if those three fail. And if the team fails and everyone is down but you you’re screwed, because you can’t do much on your own. Any feats and features invested in avoiding your own death, unless accompanied by a way to heal others, are a sub-optimal choice in such a world. They’re either never used because your team keeps you alive, or useless because you’re alive but ineffective on your own. And they’re feats and features you’re not using on things that help your role in the team.

I’m not saying you made a bad choice – sounds like your character is fun to play and working well. That’s just my perspective on why “how to build a character that can’t die” isn’t something that’s going to be in an official book.

11 Wimwick June 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm

@ Swordgleam
I would never expect a build like this to appear officially. I can also see why you might call the character self-centers or selfish. The build came about because I was looking for ways to heal and I also wanted to play up the Revenant’s undead aspects. Our party doesn’t have a healer, so each PC is really on his own in terms of staying on their feet. The build presented is my take based on playing a melee striker.

12 Dan June 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Optimizing a character’s survivability is not selfish if you look at it from a different perspective. Having a striker that is able to absorb damage benefits the leader and defender of a group, allowing them to move more autonomously and lets the players who fullfill those rolls more freedom to choose less-traditional feats and abilities… a win-win situation in my opinion. Anyway, I think I have gone off topic…

13 Iszi July 16, 2010 at 11:31 am

I’m currently participating in a 4e Tomb of Horrors tourney at the local comic store. In this setting, it’s fairly accepted that the PCs will die. In fact, we were required to bring *at least* two level 10 characters with us. When one dies, we swap over to the other. If the second dies, we bring in the first with a different name. Two is a minimum though. We can bring in as many as we want to use.

This is a situation in which a “Character that can’t be killed” is definitely desirable. I’ve been fortunate enough that my Githzerai Monk has yet to fall in the tournament. So, I’ll definitely be considering a build like this for one of my fall-back characters, as I pursue the “least killed” reward.

14 Joel September 23, 2012 at 3:11 am

Despite the fact that no one is probably going to read this i go to say Stormhawk’s vengence (10 damage (20p, 30e) every time some one hit you with an attack that reduces you to 0 or fewer hit points) feet would make this build just strait up evil…. combined with Raven Consort and a con based teleporter build battlemind…

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