I think back fondly to this thread and decided to post how I solve spiteful DMs who think enemies will let you pillage their territory when you look too tanky (as if that's ever been a normal thing in D&D). The secret was to be a commoner. No, I'm not joking.What is a monster?
D&D assumes that your party is made up of vaguely tolkienesque (non-evil) humanoids fighting evil creatures of exotic types or atleast subtypes (goblinoids).By RAW, every creature with a stat block is a "monster" but we all know that RAI, monsters are atleast creatures that can't be PCs (because they don't have an LA value) whilst NPCs are creatures with LA values that a player could take over if the DM wanted (like after a PC death) and everything would be rules-legal. Creatures with LA often have class levels (some rare monsters are specifically statted with or advance by class levels) whilst monsters often advance by RHD (it is comparatively rare for NPCs to advance by RHD).
It's also clear that "monstrous" (nonhumanoid) races can still be playable PCs even if they are monsters. Therefore non-monsters might be just humans to just humanoids or it might extend to other creatures presented as playable "races." This is in contrast to creatures a DM is expected to use against a party (even if there is an LA line). It's not clear cut, but we will take the least favorable interpretation for the below.
I pretty much use the PBMC Balanced ECL variant for every unusual race I build now. Feel free to just "go human" and build more boringly (the half-ogre template still works and your LA is still +1) if your DM is likes the tolkenesque, human(oid) bias of WotC. Since we are building an actually good tank, that's going to be another fantasy race. So we'll need to implement it in a non-gimped way, hence the ECL variant.
For reference half-ogre humans have [+1skill point/lvl, +1feat, 40', same large size, same +12str, -2dex, same +4con, same -2int, same -2cha, +2nat]. From an non-tanking optimization standpoint humans (as usual) are strictly better. If your DM doesn't want to properly entertain the idea of a non-gimped monster race, just punish him with the usual boring druid stuff everyone recommends for those kinds of DMs. If he doesn't/can't think outside the box, then you shouldn't bother either.
Be a Commoner with the most crippling single ability in the game: the Delicious flaw
TN Anthropomorphic Baleen Whale [SS215]: LA+1 3 free RHD (+3BAB, +3refl, +3will, 6+3*2int mod skills w/ listen, spot & swim in-class), +8 str, +4 dex, +4 con, +4 wis, +9nat, Large Monstrous humanoid, 60' blindsense, favored class: barb. Note that the PBMC Balanced ECL Variant allows LA buyoff with RHD, so before taking your first class level )with its associated flaws and feats), you will already have saved up and payed for your first LA.
Half-ogre Template [DragMag313p96]: +0LA in this case, count as giant for all effects [inherited templates create effects] +4str, -2int, -2cha, +2nat, 60' darkv,
Wild + Magic-Blooded + Artic + Desert [DragMag306p65,65,64,63] all +0LA: +2Str, +2con, +2int, -2wis, -2cha, +5'ms, LLV, +1skill point/lvl, +2Know(arc), +2Spellcraft, +2listen, +2spot, +10surv, -2bluff, -2diplomacy, -2sense motive, CL1 Ray of Frost 1/day, 1/day Create Water, Detect Magic, Magic Aura, Undetectable Alignment, Read Magic, favored class: sorc.
Primordial Giant [SoX81]: +0LA, invisibility at will, -4str, -2con, +4int, +4cha, +1CL all SLAs, +1know(any) RHD class skill, +2spellcraft&UMD, +warlock as favored class.
("All monsters attack you if able, regardless of their attitude towards the party."). No it's not being dead. Ghosts rock. Also take the Weresheep flaw ("you suffer the effects of the Delicious flaw") [DragMag330p87]. You should already see why this is clutch, but here's the full discussion:
How to separate RP from combat
What relevance does the "regardless of their attitude to the party" line have to do with anything? All monsters attack. Simple. Well, WotC anticipates you to be a human(oid) with a human(oid) party first RPing with human(oid)s and then fighting non-human monsters. So the flaw needed to differentiate that even if some of these creatures you meet are not ordinarily fighting you, they will now.
By RAW delicious only works on creatures presented as monsters (maybe MM1 elves but certainly including nonPHB creatures like orcs). If you find this silly, then read on. Otherwise we'll have a free flaw (broken!) and just not fight humans. Humans who like to ignore enemies currently in combat with them can be the build's kryptonite. Whatever.
Enough RAW silliness. More realistically, the flaw isn't so bad because it doesn't work on all non-adversarial NPCs. So no worries about that shopkeeper who's race is in BoED presented in the monster section: if it has an LA and the DM isn't trying to use it to pre-emptively murder the (assumably good-aligned) party.
If your DM is being reasonable about Delicious/monsters, then your second application of delicious won't go unnoticed. Now you appear to be a delicious sheep, literally. You know what eats sheep? Humans. So "the attitude of your party" suddenly doesn't help you avoid combat. A truely cruel DM will make your party want to eat you too, but we just care about the fact that creatures with LA, humanoids, humans, etc now all want to kill you if you are in your combat weresheep form. You should be safe from no one (except maybe your party).
The easiest way to make sure that your party doesn't kill you too is to simply mind control them (they can volunteer for it) and let them have their free will except when they feel like eating you. It is also a bonus since it would allow you to defeat a second domination effect with an opposed charisma check. Either be the most charisma-heavy, or make sure the party has immunity to compulsions after your weekly dominate. Don't worry about stretching thin by being the tank and the party face. You can't parley with monsters.
To be fair, I will assume the flaw has limits. It doesn't let you suddenly aggro everything in the multiverse (imagine that kind of coordination). It requires you to be 1) detected 2) attackable (if you're ethereal then creatures that could see you but can't harm you aren't effected) 3) reachable (if you fly 900' up and stay in sight, creatures that can't fly are free to attack reachable targets. Similarly a sphere of force would prevent enemies from reaching you and allow them to attack your party members while you were still alive). I'll even go so far as to say that if you are outpacing your attackers, they will see this and give up the chase because you, all things equal, you will stay unreachable.
Everything (maybe not your party if your DM is nice) wants to kill you. So you are more than the Big Dumb TankTM who doesn't talk. You can't even be seen. Because if you do, the shopkeeper/quest giver or orphan/princess will try to murder you if you are in your alternate form. Even the bartender's dog will try to get a piece of you if it sees your delicious, normal self.
But you aren't a stealthy type. Building for HiPS isn't the point. Tanking is the point. So to avoid most monsters' detection, simply be invisible all the time. Don't talk and don't bump into things or attack. This is a great solution for low level play before monsters start to all have true seeing. We can do this all day from ECL1. In fact, we don't want greater invisibility because during combat we want to turn visible again (just attack). Greater invisibility would be bad because it would have to be dispelled every time you fought something that didn't have see invis but you wanted to hold its agro.
If for some reason you need to no longer be invisible, but can't attack to proc it, get a dispelling (+1) [MiC33] weapon and use the Quickdraw feat on it to as a free action to activate the weapon enhancement's free action trigger by striking the weapon. Striking isn't defined in the rules so it means "to come into forcible contact or collision with; hit into or against" which clearly quickdraw has to do in order to go from not touching you to touching you at speed. Just make the decision (its optional) that it does. At worst, you'll have to grab the weapon by the blade and take a little damage. But you don't care, you're a tank.
Most noncombatant casters are not monstrous so they just see an invisible whale-man. By the time you run into non-opposing monstrous casters persisting see invisibility, you can afford the next part of the plan: be in an extradimensional space with a permanencied invisibile fog cloud (to overcome the transdimensional truesight counter). You lose the ability to see out with true sight yourself, but that's fine because you're not the party spotter, you're the tank. Sure you won't be able to use extradimensional storage yourself, but if your party already is doing that, its not a problem (they won't enter extradimensional spaces anyway).
A transdimensional wind spell to remove the fog would count as initiating a fight, anyway. You'll want to be (transdimensionally) mindlinked to your party so you can still know all the RP going on and speak to your party. This goes double if you are dominating your party (but otherwise not interfering) to stop them from attacking you.
Savage Progression first LA of your weresheep Lycanthrope template:+2 Wis, +2nat, alternate form (sheep), LLV, (shapechanger) sheep form, no weresheep feat [reverse engineering the listed feat order from the base animals eventually shows this]
The 2 RHD should also be free due to the Balanced ECL variant. They grant the alternate form stats of: +2str, +6dex, +6con, 40'ms & +2balance +2jump +2listen. Note that the flaw stats that you are harmless so no gore or knockback attack comes from the form.
Savage Progression second LA of a weresheep Lycanthrope template (take only if DR stacks, as it should): hybrid form, DR5/silver, sheep empathy, weresheep feats (endurance/alertness, iron will). Honestly you'll want to DCFS the endurance [based off RotW187 brixashulty but I think alertness fits better] so it doesn't matter what feat your DM choses.
About the below: The state of being "Feral" is about how one is raised, so despite being a common(er) anthro humanoid, we add it here because it clearly happens after all of the more racial-effecting templates. It's before your 2nd class level. If you or your DM have a problem with this just mentally fill in something more powerful that doesn't fit the flavor like Dragonspawn (White) [DCS222].
Feral [SS116]: d10 RHD, +4str,+2con, +2wis,-4int, +10', 2 2d6claws, imp grab, rake, rend, pounce, darkv 120', fast heal 3. The x2move+full attack /w claws+grapple is a good combo even without rake+rend to look dangerous while still being a juicy target.
Mineral Warrior [again only if DR stacks. If it doesn't ask for the weresheep flaw to not give LA similar to classes that grant templates rather than spells]: (earth), 50%ms burrow, +2Str, +4Con, -2Int, -2Wis, -2Cha, +3nat, DR8/adamantine, 1/day con to hit & +3dam.
Lolth-Touched [MMIVp93]: CE, +6str, +6con, +4Hide, +4Move silently, immune to fear.
LA+1 Tainted Blood [BoK97] (nat&str+2,con+4,DC=HD/2+con: melee attack->1d8(4d6 if colossal)acid,grapple->2d6or4d8, death->2d8or4d8 in 20' AOE after 1d4 rounds & con 1 + 1d4con after 1min, darkv 60, immune poison&acid, Imp Grapple, +5track(10if scent)
LA+2 Dragon Vassal (Gold dragon) [BoK29] fire subtype,HD bump,Str+8,dex+4,Con+6,nat+2,darkv 60',fast healing 5,+2saves,+6list&search&spot)
LA+1 Blooded One (UE61) = +2Nat,Str+2,Con+4,int-2,combat reflexes
The +4LA in templates above could be bought off at class levels+2savage progression+5RHD+3BL == 12,21,27,30 which is buy-offable on an ECL20 build at an obscene amount of XP if your DM makes the breakpoints line up with the costs: (3,000)+(7,000+9,000)+(11,000+16,000+18,000)+(15,000+23,000+28,000+30,000). Even with an item familiar, buying off 1, then 2, and then 3 LA leaves you at ECL17 when your party mates have enough XP for ECL20. If they let you catch up to ECL20, they would be at ECL22 almost at ECL23. Buying off that additional 4 LA would mean when you reach ECL20, your partymates are at ECL25 and getting close to ECL26.
But RAW, the breakpoints don't change so the costs look more like the following. LA+1: 3RHD -> 0xp, 1st LA+2: 3RHD+1BL+commoner+first savage progression+1LA -> 2,000xp. 2nd LA+2: 5RHD+2BL+commoner+1SP -> 1,000 XP. 1st LA+3: 5RHD+2BL+commoner+1SP+2LA -> 3,000 xp. 2nd LA+3: 5RHD+3BL+commoner+2SP+1LA+4 class levels -> 5,000 xp. 3rd LA+3: 5RHD+3BL+commoner+2SP+7 class levels -> 8,000 xp. Since we can include RHD at our option in the ECL variant, we only need a temporary level drain without losing XP or using Thought Bottle or Greater Restoration cheese: the 1st LA+4 buyoff is at 3BL+commoner+2SP+6 class levels+3LA -> 15,000, 2nd LA+4 buyoff is at 5RHD+3BL+commoner+2SP+7 class levels+3more class levels+3LA -> 14,000 xp, 3rd LA+4 buyoff is at 5RHD+3BL+commoner+2SP+16 class levels+1LA -> 18,000 xp, 4th LA+4 buyoff is at 5RHD+3BL+commoner+2SP+19 class levels -> 20,000 xp. The grant total is 0+2+1+3+5+8+15+14+18+20k = 86,000 xp. When you are at ECL20, you party without item familiars will be ECL22 and almost at ECL23. This is in the same acceptability range as a draconic drow or something that fully bought off its LA during a normal campaign.
I still agree with my class guideline in the opening post, but I can give more detail if people don't "get it".