Dungeons and DotA: Creating Batrider

Batrider is a ranged Intelligence hero whose roles are initiator, jungler, disabler, and escape. Through AOE attacks that constantly peck away at enemy health and strong movement options, Batrider can disrupt a section of the battlefield in a flash. Lore-wise, Batrider is probably one of the most understandable DotA 2 heroes. One day, a farmer in the Yama Raskav jungle was taken by a massive bat. Rather than accept his fate, the rider decided to ride it into the ground (and had a great time while doing so). It was after this moment that Batrider knew his purpose in life: to ride flaming bats for fun. Given the reckless nature of his abilities and his self-centered motivations, I’d say Batrider is chaotic neutral.

Before I go any further, I have to give a disclaimer: this build is the least rules-as-written “concrete” of any I have made. In order to play this build, you’ll need to be allowed access to the Unearthed Arcana Ranger and have a DM who’s willing to work with you in character creation and advancement. I will say that nothing in this guide breaks any DnD 5e rules, but they do require a level of independence from the rules-as-written in some minor ways. So, basically, talk with your DM.

Another note: this guide falls short of what I want these guides to be. Due to DnD 5e restrictions, the creation of a Batrider character that has the exact same abilities as Batrider is more or less impossible. With other guides, I always striven to create characters that, as often as possible, felt like their DotA 2 counterparts. With this guide, you’ll become Batrider in the sense that you ride a bat and use fire. Don’t expect a direct gameplay mirror like you’d see in most of the other guides in this series. With that out of the way, let’s move on.

Batrider’s abilities are mainly about causing chaos in the battlefield. Let’s take a moment to look at each one (and explain why they aren’t perfectly replicable in DnD 5e, much to my dismay).

Batrider’s first ability is Sticky Napalm. This wide shot of oil slows and damages enemies with increasing effectiveness for each stack applied. Finally, enemies in the area take increased damage from Batrider himself. We’ll get an ability to slow and damage enemies, but it’ll need some intense re-flavoring to be like Sticky Napalm. As far as exact replications go, count this one out.

The second tool in Batrider’s arsenal is Flamebreak, effectively a Molotov cocktail. This firebomb ignites enemies hit by it and knocks them back. This is the most easily recreated ability with items and spells, though there will be no knockback in our recreation.

Using his inexplicably flaming morde-bat, Batrider can use his third ability, Firefly, to leave a trail of destruction behind him as he soars into the sky. As our Batrider increases in level, he’ll be able to recreate this more and more effectively.

Finally, Batrider’s ultimate is a flaming lasso that drags targets around, restraining them. I wanted to recreate this ability so badly, but every route I looked to had so many restrictions that Batrider would be practically unplayable in order to recreate it. Sadly, I have not figured a way to recreate this ability truthfully. If you have an idea of how to do it, please leave it in the comments below!

If you’ve been waiting for a build that lets you play as an energetic bat-riding pyromaniac, here’s your chance!  For those of you hoping for an in-depth, accurate, 1:1 recreation of Batrider… well… sorry.

Race

While in DotA 1 Batrider was a troll, there’s no such player race in DnD 5e. Instead, we’ll be making Batrider a goblin. Besides vaguely similar features, goblins possess a lot of generally good racial abilities: darkvision is nice and Fury of the Small is almost always applicable. We won’t be getting as much use out of Nimble Escape because, at least eventually, we’ll have our goblin on a bat.

Honestly, calling the rider a ‘small’ race isn’t quite accurate, but we do what we must.

Class

After absurd amounts of consideration, I’ve found that a multiclass of Arcane Trickster Rogue 12 with Unearthed Arcana Beastmaster Ranger 8 works best to cover Batrider’s bases. This is an unusual mix that gives us a small amount of multi-ability score-dependency, but it isn’t a three or four-class multiclass, so I’ll consider it better than the alternatives. Like always, take these levels how you see fit.

The reason for choosing Unearthed Arcana Ranger is as follows: normal ranger sucks. It’s fine if you disagree, and you can feel free to play this build as a standard ranger, but for the sake of this guide I’ll be referencing Unearthed Arcana Ranger material exclusively.

Rogue

Our early Rogue levels really give us nothing of worth. Expertise and Sneak Attack aren’t real game-changers until a bit later on, and our racial ability Nimble Escape does 2/3s of what Cunning Action does. Our first level into Arcane Trickster is what gets us our important features.

Picking from the Wizard spell list, we get two cantrips and three spells. For the cantrips, pick Green-Flame Blade and Firebolt. For first-level spells, Featherfall, Grease, and Burning Hands are my picks. I’ll get into the justification for some of these spells now: for later levels, see the ‘Spells’ section in this guide.

Firebolt will be our way of recreating Batrider’s basic attack. In the basic attack, his bat shoots a firebolt. Because there are no fire-breathing bats in DnD 5e by default, we’ll just reflavor our goblin casting Firebolt to be our bat shooting fire. Now, we don’t have a bat just yet, so Firebolt can also be a recreation of his Flamebreak ability in the meantime. Featherfall will be useful when we do get a bat (we don’t want to go splat, now do we?). It’s always a nice spell to take early on. Grease allows a pseudo-sticky-napalm ability. Though it doesn’t slow, nor does it deal damage, it is thematically similar enough for me to say go ahead and grab it.

*Ptoo!*

Later levels in Rogue provide some miscellaneous benefits (Mage Hand Legerdemain, Uncanny Dodge, Evasion), but keep in mind all along the way you’re getting access to new spells and more sneak attack damage. Rogue level nine provides the ability Magical Ambush, which gives disadvantage to saving throws for any target you are hidden from when you cast a spell on it.

Ranger

Unearthed Arcana Ranger provides a wealth of bonuses for early levels. While some may use these bonuses for a quick level-dip to beef up their min-maxed character, we’re taking it a little further with Ranger. The Favored Enemy bonus usually goes to Humanoids, but I would argue if you want to truly recreate Batrider his favored enemy would be beasts. If the jungles of Yama Raskav are as bad as they sound, beasts would be Batrider’s #1 enemy.

At second level we get to choose a fighting style. Personally, I’d take the Dueling fighting style, but Defense is always handy, too. Archery is generally out of the question, given how neither Batrider nor his mount uses a bow.

Once we get to third level we gain access to the features of the Beastmaster conclave. The text states:

‘With 8 hours of work and the expenditure of 50 gp worth of rare herbs and fine food, you call forth an animal from the wilderness to serve as your faithful companion. You normally select you companion from among the following animals: an ape, a black bear, a boar, a giant badger, a giant weasel, a mule, a panther, or a wolf. However, your DM might pick one of these animals for you, based on the surrounding terrain and on what types of creatures would logically be present in the area.’

Notice here that ‘giant bat’ isn’t an option. The giant bat has a challenge rating of 1/4, which is as much as many of these creatures and less than that of the black bear. Of course, the giant bat has some clear advantages: High fly speed, 13 AC, and a solid amount of hitpoints, and one clear drawback of only having Blindsight for 60 feet. I wouldn’t call the giant bat an unfair option by any means (especially compared to races like Aarakocra who get flying from the start) but you should still discuss with your DM prior to following this build. Maybe it is fine as-is, maybe your DM would want to lower its health or armor class or move speed or size.

Regardless of what your DM decides regarding acquiring a giant bat, note that the Player’s Hand Book does mention the possibility that unique flying mounts might be available in a campaign:

‘Mounts other than those listed here are available in fantasy gaming worlds, but they are rare and not normally available for purchase. These include flying Mounts (pegasi, griffons, hippogriffs, and similar animals) and even aquatic Mounts (giant sea horses, for example). Acquiring such a mount often means securing an egg and raising the creature yourself, making a bargain with a powerful entity, or negotiating with the mount itself.’

All of the creatures listed here are better than the giant bat in one or more ways, so just know that while a giant bat may be an unorthodox choice it doesn’t go against the rules at all.

Basically, get a giant bat as your animal companion. Because goblins are a small race and giant bats are a large beast, our Batrider will be able to use the giant bat as a mount without any problems. This also helps trigger our Rogue Sneak Attack feature, as every time we get in range to attack a creature we will be next to another friendly creature that is in combat and within five feet of our target. Basically, if you’re on the bat, you’ll get sneak attack.

I won’t really go into the rest of Ranger: most of the options are straightforward enough. Greater Favored Enemy, for instance, really has no clear choice, making it completely up to you. One bonus that Ranger gets is the ability to cast spells, so I’ll go ahead and cover both Ranger spells and Arcane Trickster spells in the following section.

Spells

I’ve already talked about a few spells earlier, but this will be a general list of all the spells available to this build. By splitting the levels Ranger 8/Arcane Trickster Rogue 12 (according to my calculations) we end up with a fourth-level spell slot being our highest level slot. With that in mind, the words ‘early game’ ‘middle game’ and ‘late game’ here all refer to comparatively early game spells for standard spell casters.

As I’ve said for Rogue, the spells Burning Hands, Feather Fall, and Grease make the most sense to me starting out. Burning Hands can be used while flying away as a early-game recreation of Firefly. For Ranger, early game spells like Beast Bond or Animal Friendship can be helpful at the start. Beast Bond is still useful after you’ve acquired your giant bat, as it gives advantage with the bat’s attack rolls within 5 feet of you that you can see. For some Batrider disabling options, Ensnaring Strike and Snare could prove useful, too. You’ll only know three spells until Ranger level 4, so be smart with what you pick.

For mid game, a few spells stand out. In the Arcane Trickster spell list there are plenty of fire spells: Aganazzar’s Scorcher, Flaming Sphere, and Scorching Ray all provide an option for (poorly) recreating Firefly. Just take off with your giant bat and shoot any of these spells behind you! Dragon’s Breath is the only way to make your flying bat actually shoot fire, so this spell works nicely, too.

The ranger spell Spike Growth is also essential: unlike Grease, this spell actually slows and damages targets! With some intense re-flavoring, Spike Growth will end up being our Sticky Napalm ability (more like stick-y napalm, amirite?). Just as a side-note, Arcane Trickster gets another cantrip at level 10. You can easily pick up Lightning Lure this way, which, like the Flame Lasso ability, pulls targets.

By late game, the Arcane Trickster spell list gives us the infamous Fireball spell. Once you can finally cast a fourth-level spell, Wall of Fire is our best way to emulate Firefly. Unlike earlier recreations, with Wall of Fire we can have a path of flame that persists! The late game Ranger spell list is pretty pathetic for the purposes of recreating Batrider, so there’s not any specific spell that you’ll need.

‘One forest fire coming up!’

Finally, if your DM is adamant that you may not have a giant bat, the Ranger/Druid spell Conjure Animals lets you summon EIGHT OF THEM. As an action. Admittedly this spell requires concentration, and you should really go Druid if you plan on reworking this entire build to use this spell, but if you ever need eight giant bats in a few seconds… there you have it.

Equipment

For our Batrider, you’ll want to have some kind of armor, be it light or medium. You’ll want to take a whip as your primary weapon – together with the Green-Flame Blade cantrip, this finesse weapon will allow you to make sneak attacks at a reach that also deal fire damage. I mentioned Flameburst was pretty easy to recreate, and it is! If you don’t take Arcane Trickster right away, just use the ‘alchemist’s fire’ item for a quick replication (that actually does ignite enemies, unlike Firebolt).

‘You call throwing firebombs around a martial art?’
‘Hey, as long as it works.’

If you’ve gotten your DM to agree to riding a giant bat, they’re probably a DM that likes to give special treats to their players. As a very direct person, I would as my DM the following question: ‘Can I have a flaming whip at some point?’ Seriously, if you can get a flame-tongue style whip, that’d be very cool. To my knowledge, no such magic weapon already exists in DnD 5e.

Feats

Don’t worry about not having enough Ability Score Improvements for feats: with this build, you’ll get six (just like you would if you went Rogue the whole way)!

Mounted Combatant is a great feat for this build for so many reasons. Firstly, because giant bats are large, you can get advantage on melee attack rolls against creatures smaller than your mount. This might seem redundant, but it guarantees that attacks with your whip made at a reach would still get Sneak Attack damage, even if you and your mount aren’t next to your target. If you’re fighting a creature that’s large or larger, you can still get sneak attack damage if you and your flying mount are both within five feet of it.

Mounted Combatant is also great because you can take damage for your mount: any attack (not AOE spell) that targets your mount can instead target you for no action cost. With Uncanny Dodge, you can then halve this damage. Finally, Mounted Combatant gives your mount evasion, too: both you and your mount will always take (at most) half-damage when making a Dexterity saving throw, assuming you’re at least a level 7 Rogue.

Elemental Adept is always a nice feat for an elemental-themed character. If you want your fire-based attacks (which will be a majority of them) to deal more damage, pick up this feat.

Ability Scores

You’ll want a high Dexterity, Wisdom, and Intelligence for this build. It is more important to have a high Intelligence than it is to have a high Wisdom, namely because most of your damaging spells will be coming from Arcane Trickster. You might be tempted for higher Constitution, but keep in mind that Rangers have a d10 hit die, so health shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Additionally, Batrider isn’t known for his tankiness.

Though there is no perfect recreation of abilities as I would like them, I’ve sacrificed perfect recreation for a build that is thematically true and mechanically fun. For instance, the best “pull with whip” type attack in DnD 5e is the Way of the Four Elements Monk ability ‘Water Whip.’ I could have fit that in, but I didn’t think it was worth it.

While this build does require more  approval with your DM than usual, I think it’s an extremely fun one. Many times I make these builds to try and test my character-creation skills, but I am definitely playing this one as soon as I can. And as always, gonna ride this bat outta hell like a bat outta hell!

Hopefully you enjoyed this guide! If you did, you might enjoy my others:

Abaddon
Alchemist
Ancient Apparition
Anti-Mage
Arc Warden
Axe
Bane

Additionally, consider dropping by our podcast at 2:00pm EST every Friday on twitch.tv/heavyshelf for a conversation on what’s big each week in gaming.

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