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Douglas Muir 406's page

9,775 posts. 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 alias.


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Ectar wrote:
With regards to your Phantasmal Killer example: Hypnotic Stare and it's nightmarish improvement both only affect the WILL portion of the save. So no -3 to fort and no disadvantage (as you say) on the fort either.

You're right! Hm, that weakens one of the most attractive aspects of this combo. It's still solid at levels 3-7, but less so after that.

Doug M.

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Heretek wrote:
Add in an Antipaladin and you're onto something devious.

Yeah, you could in theory build a party around this: Mesmerist, arcane caster, Antipaladin, Court Bard. Everything you meet -- including things that are normally fear-resistant! -- saves twice at -6 to -10, taking the lower. Works great until your caster runs out of spells, or is knocked out.

Doug M.

Also, if the PFSRD advanced search function is correct, there really are not a lot of spells with the Fear descriptor. Go figure.

Doug M.

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The Mesmerist's "Nightmare" stare seems really intriguing at first glance: in addition to inflicting the usual stare penalty, the victim must roll twice to save against fear effects, taking the lower roll. (He has "disadvantage", as the kids say these days.)

In theory this could be amazing. Rolling twice with a -2 or -3 penalty means that strong saves suddenly become much weaker, and weak saves pretty much mean autofail. In practice, this stare is crippled by the fact that (1) there just aren't that many spells with the Fear descriptor, and (2) the Mesmerist has access to a grand total of two of them -- four if you take the Hatemonger archetype, and even then you have to sacrifice tricks to get them. (Well, and of course (3) many creatures like undead, golems and oozes are immune to fear effects... that goes without saying.) So, is there any way to make this stare worth bothering with? Well... what if you tried teaming up with an arcane full caster, and tag-teaming enemies with fear effects? You stare (free action) and your buddy zaps the target with a fear spell?

Using the spell search function at d20pfsrd, we find that there are a grand total of 21 canon spells with the Fear descriptor. However, some of these are not available to arcane spellcasters (castigate, hunter's howl, aura of doom), or are super situational (hydrophobia, black mark) or are unlikely to be used with a stare (symbol of fear) or are just really feeble (feast of fear). Here's a summary of the arcane spells that might be interesting or useful.

Sotto Voce (0) -- At very low levels, his dopey little cantrip is actually pretty handy. As long as the Nightmare mesmerist is in range, a caster who takes this can use a standard to keep imposing the Shaken condition on a foe every round. Useful at low levels when you sometimes run completely out of spells and have nothing better to do with a standard.

Bane (1) -- Imposes a -1 penalty on attack rolls for a minute. This is a stupid, feeble spell without the stare, and still pretty meh with it. (Does anyone actually ever use this spell?)

Cause Fear (1) -- One target of up to 5 HD is frightened (-2 on attacks and saves, must flee if it possibly can) for d4 rounds. Okay at low levels. Not great because many DMs will rule that a magically frightened creature will return to acting normally (i.e., come back and attack you) once the spell expires, but even just getting one enemy out of action for 2d4 rounds -- d4 to flee, the same to return -- can be tactically very handy. This is a so-so spell that becomes a pretty good one when combined with the stare.

Doom (1) -- One creature becomes shaken for 1 minute/level. Okay, now we're talking. This means you can impose Shaken (-2 on attacks and saves) on low-CR opponents pretty much at will. If you're a low-level caster throwing this at DC 14? The stare boost means that a target would need a +10 Will save just to have a better-than-even chance of saving. Also, Shaken stacks with the Mesmerist's stare penalty, so you can run a one-two punch: Mesmerist stares as a free action, arcane caster throws Doom, Mesmerist (or another party member) hits the target with a save-or-suck Will save forcing a save at -4. At lower levels this will be the go-to spell for Team Fear.

Haunting Mists (2) -- Doesn't combine with stares, since it shuts down vision beyond 5'. (Also, reading the spell description as written, you the caster are inside the mist, so you'd have to save or suffer the ill effects. Was this ever errata'd?)

Scare (2) -- Cause Fear, except it can affect two or three creatures and lasts longer. Still limited to creatures of 5 HD or less. The modest situational power boost hardly justifies using a second level spell slot.

Vision of Hell (3) -- A fixed-area effect that causes everyone within it to be shaken and take an additional -2 on saves against fear. Lasts 1 minute/level. Would be a very good 2nd level spell, is kind of mediocre at 3rd. Won't always stack with the stare because it's an area effect. Remarkably, this is the only third-level arcane spell with the Fear descriptor other than the very situational Hydrophobia.

Aura of Doom (3) -- Clerics and oracles only, which is a pity because this is a fine spell: all non-allies who come within 20' of you must save or be shaken, and it has an excellent 10 minutes/level duration. Creatures who leave the area and then re-enter it must save again, so you can use this tactically. It's mentioned here because if Team Fear is part of a larger party, a cleric with this spell can set up some hair-raising triple combinations, i.e. Mesmerist stares, cleric moves close to target, target is Shaken, Wizard throws Doom and target is now double-Shaken = Frightened. Or, a bit later, wizard throws Phantasmal Killer (see below) and suddenly target is rolling twice at -5 and is probably dead.

Fear (4) -- 30' cone, everything in the cone must save or be panicked for 1 round/level. This is an okay spell that combines with the stare to become a very good one. The only real drawback is the short range, which requires you to move your squishy self close to the target. Panicked is a strong condition, as a panicked creature cannot attack under any circumstances -- it just cowers even if you're hacking at it -- so if you're clever you'll use this tactically to drive creatures into corners and so forth. Assuming you throw this at DC 17, anything with a Will lower than +13 is likely to fail. So at mid-levels, say from 7th to 10th, this is a combo that will usually take out any opponent up to and including bosses.

Phantasmal Killer (4) -- Okay, now we're talking. This spell is normally okay but not amazing. It grants two saves, Will and Fortitude. Make the Will save and you're fine. Fail the Will and you take 3d6 of damage and must then roll Fortitude too; fail Fortitude and you die. It's basically Baby's First Death Spell. The double save means that it usually doesn't work, because most creatures have at least one strong save out of Will/Fortitude. So normally it's a bit of a Hail Mary. But when combined with the Nightmare stare? By this level the Mesmerist's stare penalty is probably -3, so each save is rolled twice at -3 with the lower roll prevailing. Suddenly this risky spell is much, much stronger.

How would this work in practice? Well, let's say that Team Fear is now 8th level. Suddenly, a frost giant appears: a CR 9 brute with Will +6 and Fortitude +14. Assuming the spell is cast at DC 19, a frost giant would normally fail the Will save 60% of the time and fail the Fort save just 20% of the time. So his chance of failing both saves would be just 60% x 20% = 12%. That's hardly worth bothering to try unless you were truly desperate. But if this is combined with the Nightmare stare, his chance of failing the Will save is now 93.75%, and of failing the Fortitude save is 57.75%, so his chance of failing both is about 54%. Your chance of killing that giant with a single spell -- bam, dead -- has jumped from less than 1 in 8 to better than even.

At higher levels this combo will become less effective for various reasons -- SR, ever higher save bonuses, better things to do with a standard. But from 7th level to around 12th or so, this is just brutal. It's not game-destroying -- both of you must get close enough, it won't effect undead and other fear-immune creatures, yadda yadda -- but it will regularly allow you to auto-kill enemies who would otherwise be seriously troublesome. And even at higher levels, you can still make it work by combining it with other debuffs (intimidation, a Court Bard's satire power) or with Quickened Doom or Quickened Vision of Hell.

So that's great! Unfortunately that's about the end of the line for Team Fear, because the higher level spells with the Fear descriptor tend to suck.

Feast on Fear (5) -- The only 5th level spell with the Fear descriptor is the silly Feast on Fear, which is really an NPC spell. Not worth bothering even with the stare boost.

Banshee Blast (6) -- Oh, come on. 30' range? d4 of damage/level? "but it's SONIC damage! that's rare and precious!" Yeah, I could see this as a very good fourth level spell, or a so-so 5th level one. At 6th it's not worth bothering. Adding the stare just means you nail down the panicked condition, and you were doing that with Fear four levels ago.

Phantasmal Revenge (7) -- This is actually weaker than Phantasmal Killer (10 hp damage/level instead of autokill) and it's super situational. (It's also not very well written. How recently dead must the corpse be? What if there were multiple killers?)

Prediction of Failure (8) -- The only half-decent high-level fear spell, this is suck-or-suck: the victim is shaken and sickened for 1 round/level if the save is made, or shaken and sickened permanently if it's failed. This means that with a single standard action you can instantly impose two conditions on an enemy that stack with each other (and with the mesmerist's stare, too). At 15th level or higher, there will often be better things you can do with a standard; you're getting into Rocket Tag territory there, where spending a round debuffing is often not worth it. Still, you could combine this with Quickened Phantasmal Killer and watch your target try to make those saves while rolling twice at -7 and taking the worse.

Weird (9) -- Mass Phantasmal Killer. The "within 30' of each other" restriction makes this situational and, for a 9th level spell, very weak.

Conclusion: the Nightmare stare by itself is almost worthless. However, as part of a team it can be quite strong at middle levels, say from 3 (when you get it) to around 10 or 12. Teaming up with an arcane caster who can cast Doom means you can usually impose the Shaken condition with a single standard action; later, Fear will allow you to make most enemies simply run away, while Phantasmal Killer will allow you to insta-kill many foes for several levels. I still can't recommend this strategy for a long-term build, because there are really no good fear spells after 4th level. However, for PFS play it's pretty strong! Team Fear will blast through a lot of encounters without taking a scratch.

Doug M.

Joana wrote:
Link to announcement

Ah ha. Thank you.

Four and a half years is a pretty substantial hiatus. (Man, the idea of bringing back some Jack Vance, though...)

Doug M.

Paizo published about 30 books in the Planet Stories line between 2008 and 2011. But there hasn't been a new one since then.

Is Planet Stories definitely dead and done? And if so, was a formal decision ever reached on this, or was it just something that... happened?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

The Silver Balladeer is based on the fantasy character John The Balladeer, who was featured in a number of stories by Manly Wade Wellman in the 1950s and '60s. The stories are slightly dated, but they are still quite good and worth reading. Think Johnny Cash beating eldritch horrors into submission with a silver-stringed guitar. John

But anyway! The Balladeer makes sense in a world where curses are common and mind-affecting evil creatures are a regular threat. If that's not the case in your world, then maybe not.

Doug M.

The recent Horror volume has a spell -- Appearance of Life -- that's very similar to this one; it's 3rd level and can be cast on multiple creatures, but otherwise it's much the same.

Doug M.

Zenori wrote:

1 - Rise of Runelords - Pro - Well balanced, focused homebase and NPCs ; Con - May need more long term NPCs for 'out in the field' toward end

Additional Pro: As the first AP, there's an insane amount of stuff out there for it. Note: your PCs must be ready / willing to bond to the small town of Sandpoint and become its protectors. Can be run with murderhobo PCs but not ideal.

2 - Skulls and Shackles - Pro - Lots of recurring NPCs and shipmates for interaction; Con - May need work on group incentive to stick together and be 'pirates'

You may want to review the ship combat and fame/infamy subsystems to make sure they work for you.

3 - Kingmaker - Pro and Con - Very open

As a sandbox, it supports you adding a lot of your own stuff in there if you want to. There is a kingdom building subsystem which needs some tweaking, as it's the original version is vulnerable to a couple of different exploits by aggressive min/maxer players. The "become a King / Duke / High Priest" whatever aspect is a lot of fun. Unfortunately, there's no court intrigue (there's a civil war in the parent kingdom, but it's entirely offstage). Plenty of room to add your own, of course.


4 - Jade Regent - Pro - recurring NPCs for interactions; Con - Weak middle

FWIW, I thought "Hungry Storm" (the third module) was very strong. The second one and the last two didn't do much for me. The second one is vikings and ninjas, which you'd think would be all kinds of fun, but it got written as a 'collect this plot token' scenario. Some don't mind that; it left me pretty flat. "Hungry Storm", otoh, is atmospheric and dangerous. No towns or friendly magic shoppes -- you're crossing the polar ice cap for about twenty hours of session time.

Two subsystems here -- caravan travel and relations with the key NPCs. Again, make sure they work for you and your players.

5 - Curse of the Crimson Throne - Pro - City based for ease of recurring NPCs, factions, interactions; Con - Needs conversion, unless I wait

I am totally biased in favor of CotCT: I ran it and it was a blast. Yes, you'd have to wait a couple of months. It ships September 28. Option #1: get the .pdf of the first module, Edge of Anarchy, and run that for the next couple of months. It'll cost you another $15 and it's 3.5, but there are a bunch of conversions available online (and, really, at low levels the differences between PF and 3.5 are pretty minor). Option #2: run them in a warmup campaign for a few sessions. Have it set in Korvosa, to get them acquainted with the city. There are several Korvosa-based modules and PFS scenarios that you can use -- ask around. Then when you start the proper campaign in October, the surviving PCs from the warmup campaign can be retired and used as NPCs. (So, it's fine if the warmup is at higher levels.)

An interesting Option #3 that I saw someone use on a PBP campaign: have the players generate normal 1st level characters. Then have them put those characters aside and write new character sheets with the PCs as 0 level children. (There's a template somewhere on converting adult characters to children.) Then run a short (1-2 sessions) campaign with them as kids in Lamm's Lambs, trying to carry out various minor missions for Lamm without being captured or killed. Might not be to everyone's taste but a great way to generate some backstory. And if you play Lamm as the unbeatable and terrifying Master of Child Slaves, it'll be entirely satisfying when the adult PCs catch up with him.


Doug M.

As a bunch of people have already noted, the big limitation on Color Spray is its weird, special short range. Spread out just a little bit, and a 15' cone means he can't get more than one of you. Also, the enemy wizard must put his fragile, squishy self within 15' of your party... so unless the DM is really out to screw you (enemy is levitating 15' up or something), you've got a good shot at taking him out pretty fast.

Also, as a low-level spell, the save on Color Spray isn't amazing. Shove the cleric or the monk up front, let them roll the save, and then move in for the kill.

Doug M.

If you're new to running an AP, here are a couple of general thoughts.

1) You Can Mess With It. APs are not some finely balanced, delicate mechanism that will collapse if you change an encounter. Change NPCs, move stuff around, add encounters, take out encounters. You're the DM. The AP gives you an overall plot, a framework, a bunch of ideas, and a bunch of encounters. Those are good things, but you're not stuck with them.

2) If The Players Are Having Fun, You're Doing It Right. That applies to everything, really, not just APs... but if the players are enjoying themselves, everything else -- treasure, encounter balance, plot, whatever -- is secondary. The point of the game is to have fun.

3) Foreshadow Foreshadow Foreshadow. The thing about APs is, they're really long. If you play once a week, it'll take an average party around a year to get through one. The advantage of this is that you can drop in characters, subplots, hints and clues today, and pick them up again five or ten sessions down the line. Not all players love this, but IME most do. It's especially fun (for most players) when things they did or didn't do in Session 1 turn out to be hugely important in Session 7 or whatever. The guy they allowed to escape? Maybe he turns out to be a demon spy and he's the reason the citadel falls. Or, on the other hand, maybe he repents, and comes back to save the PCs in their hour of need. Either way, their actions have consequences.

Running an AP is its own interesting thing. Enjoy!

Doug M.

Dastis wrote:

What are you getting for your familiar? Another imp is a great option as you would have a devil on both shoulders :D. Otherwise maybe a Cacodaemon for free soul harvesting

Oh, two imps can take you some very interesting places. Just a sec... ah, here we go.

The Two-Imp Debuff:

Play a caster with a familiar. Throw a feat at improved familiar to get an imp. It's helpful, but not necessary, if you're human and choose the Eye for Talent alternate racial (+2 on any ability score for familiars and companions.) Max out your ranks in Intimidate. Your imp familiar gets to use these ranks.

Now dip a level of Diabolist. Hey, you just got an imp companion! Now you have two imps, one one each shoulder.

Unfortunately, Intimidate is not a class skill for imps. And worse yet, as Tiny creatures imps will suffer -4 on their Intimidate (demoralize) checks against all larger creatures. That sounds pretty bad. But on the other hand, two imps means you get to check twice! Leverage this. Let's say you took Eye for Talent -- +2 Cha for each imp. And then have each imp take Skill Focus (Intimidate).

How does this play out in practice? Well, at level N each imp will have N ranks. So up until 10th level, their Intimidate checks will be at N+2 (+3 for their 16 Cha, +3 for the feat, -4 for their size). At 9th level, that's two checks at +11. What are some typical demoralize DCs for monsters you might face at this level? Rakshasa, 21; nosferatu, 22; young adult black dragon, 25; frost giant, 26. With two checks at +11, your odds of demoralizing these guys are, rakshasa - 80%, nosferatu - 75%, dragon - 51%, and giant - 44%.

That's actually pretty good -- especially when you keep in mind that the imps are doing this on their own time, without burning any of *your* precious actions. And once you hit 10th level and your imps pick up an additional +3 from the feat, your odds get very nice indeed. You have a comfortably better than even chance of demoralizing any monster of your CR, and a near certainty of success against large groups of lower level (CR-2 or 3) mooks. I wouldn't say this is a fantastic tactic; it requires a bit of planning and investment. But it's definitely viable, especially at level 11 and up. Intimidate is a fine debuff (-2 on attacks and saves) that ignores SR and all other defensive abilities. And of course, there's the visual: you walk into a room full of monsters, and your two imps start jumping up and down on your shoulders, screeching like insane apes, and all the monsters become demoralized and cringe in fear...

As a last note if your combining summoning and binding there is going to be a lot of paperwork. Get some note cards with the stats of common minions. Also try to keep it to a maximuim of 3 types of minion active at one time

Firm yes to both of these. If you're going to have a lot of monsters running around under your control -- do your homework. It will make the other players appreciate your cleverness (as opposed to getting annoyed at you for slowing down the game while you desperately flip through the Bestiaries).

Doug M.

It's been clarified that you can conjure your devil using a scroll, which means you can enter as early as 6th level. The drawback, of course, is that scrolls are expensive and you have a 15% chance of scroll failure.

Also, trying to summon an imp is not a good idea -- they're relatively difficult to summon and bind. A lemure is less dramatic, but gets the job done under RAW and is much less likely to make its Will save or its opposed Cha check.

For details, google DMDM's Guide to the Diabolist, DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, and -- if you really want to play up to high levels -- DMDM's Mini-Guide to Gate.


Doug M.

My FTF campaign has turned into a Kingmaker-style wilderness sandbox, at least for now. So I'm looking for a collection of wilderness encounters. I can stat up beasts and monsters, no problem -- what I'm looking for is a monster with a lair, a bit of treasure, and a plot hook or two, type of thing. Or some interesting wilderness-themed NPCs, or some traps, or... you get the idea. Stuff I can salt around the hex map for the PCs to stumble across.


Doug M.

I used Red Mantis assassins in the OP because RMAs are cool. And hey, they're *assassins* -- killers for hire. They're being paid to do a job.

And yes, Lyrie is more a drug user than dealer in my scenario. Her current supply of drugs is a one-off; how she got it is deliberately not specified, feel free to splice in your own backstory. And she plans to promptly dispose of it for fast cash to flee the city.

Doug M.

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Apocalypso wrote:

GMing tomorrow night. Need a Solid Witch for a Boss Fight. Level 10-12. And some good minions.

Here's one. At CR 11, she might be a bit weak for 7X 8th level PCs, but you can either add a couple of levels or give her another minion or two.

* * * * *

Mrs. Baylock runs a little potion shop in a large town or city. She sells minor potions (less than 200 gp value) along with various soothing herbs and lotions. She has been there for years, and is well liked and respected; people think she's a kindly old lady with a few minor, useful spells.

It's all a horrible fraud, of course. She's actually an evil witch and a Souldrinker, a loathsome creature who preys on the homeless, the careless, and -- very occasionally -- children. Basically she's a serial killer who turns people into soul gems, then uses them to craft items. As a result, she has a large store of magic items -- considerably more than the normal WBL for a 12th level NPC. This makes her a tempting target, but also makes her much more dangerous.

Depending on how things work out, she's a potential partner, resource, or antagonist for the PCs. She's very alert to possible customers, possible victims, and possible threats, so she'll probably be aware of and interested in the PCs before they ever walk into her shop.

Female old human witch 10 / Souldrinker 2
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses darkvision 60 ft., see invisibility; Perception +10

Defense & Offense:


AC 24, touch 17, flat-footed 20 (+4 armor, +3 deflection, +3 Dex, +1 dodge, +3 natural)
hp 107 (12d6+63)
Fort +10, Ref +11, Will +15


Speed 30 ft.
Melee +1 dagger +6/+1 (1d4/19–20)
Ranged +1 dagger +11/+6 (1d4/19–20)
Special Attacks hexes (cackle, cauldron, charm [2 steps, 6 rounds], evil eye [–4, 9 rounds], misfortune [2 rounds], retribution [6 rounds], waxen image [6 uses/image])

Witch Spells Prepared (CL 11th; concentration +18)

6th -- cloak of dreams (DC 23), mass suggestion (DC 23), unwilling shield (DC 22)
5th -- baleful polymorph (DC 21), mass pain strike (DC 21), mind fog (DC 22)
4th -- charm monster (DC 21), confusion (DC 21), dimension door, poison (DC 20)
3rd -- blink, dispel magic, extended false life, lightning bolt
(DC 19), suggestion (DC 20)
2nd -- cure moderate wounds, hold person (DC 19), invisibility, vomit swarm, web (DC 18)
1st -- burning hands (DC 17), charm person (DC 18), command (DC 18), ill omen, mage armor, unseen servant
0 (at will) -- daze (DC 17), detect magic, message, read magic

Patron: Deception

Tactics & Stats:


Before Combat -- Mrs. Baylock casts extended false life and extended mage armor every day, and casts poison into her witching gown (activating its spite effect). If time allows, she drinks a potion of bear’s endurance before combat.

During Combat -- Mrs. Baylock casts cloak of dreams on the first round of combat. Thereafter, she attacks enemies with mass pain strike, confusion, mind fog, mass suggestion, or lightning bolt. Once anyone closes with her in melee, she casts blink and unwilling shield, then targets her opponent with ill omen followed by baleful polymorph or charm monster. If her cover has not been blown, she also screams for help; this will attract 1d6 curious neighbors (low level commoners or experts) within 2d4 rounds, followed by the Watch two minutes later. PCs who cannot prove their innocence (i.e., by proving that she was really a soul-sucking murderess) will quickly find themselves in trouble with the authorities.

Morale -- If reduced to 60 hit points or fewer, Mrs. Baylock smashes her elemental gem to summon a Large air elemental with which to occupy the PCs while she flies to the ceiling or out a window to heal herself. She will be reluctant to abandon her home, however, especially if her cover has not been blown.


Str 7, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 23, Wis 13, Cha 12
Base Atk +6; CMB +5; CMD 23

Feats Brew Potion, Combat Casting, Craft Wondrous Item, Dodge, Iron Will, Leadership, Spell Focus (enchantment), Toughness

Skills Bluff +10, Craft (alchemy) +25, Diplomacy +10, Fly +19, Intimidate +19, Knowledge (arcana) +21, Knowledge (history) +21, Knowledge (nature) +21, Knowledge (planes) +21, Perception +10, Spellcraft +21, Stealth +10, Use Magic Device +15

Languages Abyssal, Aklo, Common, Draconic, Infernal, Sylvan

SQ permanent spells, souldrinker’s familiar (cacodaemon named Mr. Wiggles] [stores all prepared spells and patron spells, plus beguiling gift, glyph of warding, spite, summon monster V, and additional spells of your choice])

Combat Gear elemental gem (air), potions of bear’s endurance (2), potions of cure moderate wounds (2); Other Gear +1 dagger, amulet of natural armor +3, belt of incredible dexterity +4, broom of flying, headband of vast intelligence +4 (Knowledge [history] and [planes]), ring of protection +3, rod of lesser metamagic (extend), witching gown (contains poison; see above), alchemist’s lab, spell component pouch, 723 gp

Exceptional Resources (Ex)

Mrs. Baylock's position as a prosperous shopkeeper, and her sideline in murdering people to turn them into magic-crafting soul points or valuable soul gems, have allowed her to amass wealth and magic items well beyond her standard Wealth By Level.

Permanent Spells (Ex)

Mrs. Baylock benefits from Darkvision and See Invisibility cast as permanent spells on herself.

Meeting Mrs. Baylock; or, Neutral Evil with yummy cookies:

Mrs. Baylock is older than she looks. She appears to be a plump, healthy, cheerful 65 or so. She's actually around 120 years old -- her Cauldron of Lifedrinking has dramatically slowed down the aging process. She's been living in this town for over 20 years and has hardly aged a day. Regular castings of Sow Thoughts and Suggestion keep most people from noticing anything odd, but at some point in the next few years she'll probably have to pick up stakes and move on.

She's evil, but it's worth noting what sort of evil. Mrs. Baylock wants a nice, comfortable life surrounded by nice things and friendly people. It's easier to have nice things if you have a sideline in turning people into soul gems, and it's easier to have friendly people if you can enchant or hex over the rough bits. She's not a sadist, and she's not hungry for power. She just wants what she wants.

Mrs. Baylock is pretty much always polite and sweet-tempered. She doesn't get angry. She's a natural optimist. It would be going too far to say she /likes/ people, but she finds them endlessly interesting. She's regularly kind and generous to children and the poor. Of course, that's partly pure predatory calculation, but, say, children are also interesting. And she really, really likes sweet little cookies. With tea.

Mrs. Baylock always has animals around the place: a dog, two cats, a tank of fish, a cage of mice, a raven, a lizard. She does, in fact, like animals (as long as someone else is taking care of them); being an utterly evil murderous sociopath doesn't prevent her from enjoying a purring cat or a friendly puppy. That said, most of the animals are just window dressing. The lizard, though, is her cacodaemon familiar. It needs a DC 22 Perception check to even spot the lizard lying motionless on a shelf, and it's firmly the least interesting thing in the room. (If the lizard is not there, it's because Mrs. Baylock and Lionel are keeping a "guest" in the cellar.)


Lionel is her cohort. He's a large, bald man in his forties with an large burn scar on his face and a vague, dreamy smile. He seems "simple" and rather kindly, and most people know him as the big man who carries parcels and mops the floor around the potion shop. In fact he's of normal intelligence and another evil, brutal serial killer. He's a Ftr 5 / Rog 5, and his job is to go out and find victims -- homeless people, visitors to town who won't be missed, the occasional lost child -- subdue them, and bring them home for "processing" in the cellar.

Mrs. Baylock has enjoyed working with Lionel, but he's middle-aged now and has lost a step. Also, Lionel is a more traditional sort of Neutral Evil. Mrs. Baylock has no trouble with torture or rape -- goodness, no, it takes all kinds my dear, and you have to let the help have their little hobbies -- but he's been getting sloppy lately, and that's bad. She's keeping an eye out for a replacement, because one of these days Lionel is going to have his own trip to the cellar. He'll make a lovely soul gem, so black and shiny; she's already thinking about how possible uses.

Cauldron of Lifedrinking:

Who knows how she came by this major wondrous item? She's had it for over seventy years now. How many hearts have been boiled up for soup in it? Really, best not to ask.
Cauldron of the Lifedrinker

This black cauldron is activated by using it to make a soup from the body parts of a victim. The victim must have been intelligent and freshly (within one minute) killed. Making the soup takes one hour; it must be consumed while still warm (within ten minutes thereafter). The cauldron gives a different result depending on which body part is used:

Brain -- the soup gives +2 to Int for one hour per level or hit die of the victim.

Liver -- the soup gives +2 to Con for one hour per level or hit die of the victim

Heart -- the soup extends the drinker's life by one year. This does not actually make the drinker younger, but rather moves the date of her entry into the next age category (middle aged, old, venerable, or dead) back by a year. The onset date of each category can only be moved a maximum of twenty years.

Only one body part can be chosen per use. The cauldron can be used once per day and can make up to three servings of soup at a time. Drinking more than one serving has no additional effect. Using the cauldron is an evil act.

Phew. -- Let me know if you use her; I'll be interested to hear!

Doug M.

Wheldrake wrote:

In the hands of PCs it becomes all too easy to abuse. Once you've gotten a taste of magic jar, it's hard to go back to being just a squishy mage.

So I'm very ambivalent about this spell, and plan to house-rule it out of general availability.

Yes and no. True, in the hands of a clever player it can provide a huge power-up. But the range limitation means that for a standard dungeon crawl or outdoor adventure, you have to carry the jar around with you AND either carry your body, or be VERY sure that you can get back to it in time. Both of those requirements provide lots of opportunities for the DM to make things interesting for Mr. Clever-Clever.

Doug M.

It'd work great with Mesmerist mechanically. Thematically, the Mesmerist's emphasis on lies and mind-control might be a bit tricky.

Doug M.

I did exactly this once, many years ago. The ghost was a former assassin / serial killer (which is to say, an assassin who really enjoyed his work). He was bound to the knife that he'd used in life... which looked like an ordinary kitchen knife, not a dagger or anything like that. He found an ally in a sorceror (who had resentments and issues of her own). The inspiration for the whole thing was the minor (but surprisingly good) 1990s movie "The Frighteners"...

...anyway. Sure, a ghost works, but you have to give him a goal, and also give the players some way to get rid of him. Destroying his jar item works, of course.

Doug M.

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Come on... reptoids. You can bring in a Lovecraftian connection: they're serving the unspeakable gods of the Dark Tapestry. You can use all that crazy tech stuff from Iron Gods. You can steal plots from old episodes of X-Files. And you can crank your players' paranoia up to 11, because *anyone might be a lizard person*.

And of course, the reptoid is a natural match for the Mesmerist class: +2 Cha, and they even have a racial ability that stacks with the Mesmerist's class ability. (A minor one, yes. But still.)

So, you have a city that's being taken over by the reptoids. There are only a few, but they've killed and replaced most of the town leaders: the Duke, the Mayor, even the head of the Thieves Guild. And their leader is a high level Mesmerist who can pretty much turn anyone's brain to mush. Lots of enchantments and illusions + people being replaced = the chance to just gaslight the hell out of your PCs.

What do they want? Well, season to taste, but I think they want to feed a bunch of people to some ancient artifact in order to open up a gate. A gate to nothing good. Tastes vary, but I don't see them as conquerors, myself. More like opportunistic scavengers: they invite the Great Old Ones in (or whatever), and then they loot the planet thoroughly during the ensuing chaos, and then they duck through a portal to the next hapless planet. Season to taste, YMMV.

What's the hook? Flumphs, of course. A flumph team shows up to warn the PCs about trouble ahead. In a pinch they can show up to offer help. Unfortunately, the kindly and lawful flumphs are always a step behind the manipulative and malevolent reptoids... so before the final confrontation with Team Lizard, I suspect the poor flumphs are going to end up tragically dead. But still: any campaign with flumphs is automatically better. So.


Doug M.

Avoron wrote:

Consider possessing an elder aether elemental, which should be easy enough to conjure with greater planar binding or summon monster VII. As an elemental you can speak and hold items normally, while gaining a huge pile of benefits. Blindsense 60 ft, a natural flight speed, and a 30 foot reach for delivering touch spells put you off on a nice start, but the real draw are its defensive abilities.


All in all, a very nice chasis for a high-level spellcaster.

Firm agreement: this is a good choice. Summon Monster probably won't give you the time you need -- with Extend Spell it'll last maybe three minutes. But Greater Planer Binding will set you right up.

Meanwhile, a couple of general notes on the spell:

1) You want to be sure that the BBEG doesn't tip his hand about the spell being Magic Jar, because Magic Jar has one significant weakness: it can be undone by a simple dispel, cast either on the host/victim or the jar. Once the PCs realize this, they can just spam dispels until one succeeds. So a clever BBEG should try to give the impression that something else (like a Polymorph) is going on.

2) Another issue with this spell is that you absolutely must stay within range of the jar. (Why? Because if your host body is killed while in range, your spirit just bounces back to the jar. But if your host body is killed while out of range of the jar, *you die*.) And the range is medium -- 100' + 10'/level. So a 15th level BBEG has a radius of 250' from the jar. And your body *also* must be kept safe within range of the jar, in that same radius. (Because otherwise, when the spell ends? If your body isn't within range of the jar? *You die*.) In theory your possessed body could fly around carrying the jar and go anywhere you pleased, but in practice this would be insanely dangerous -- if either the jar gets broken, or you don't get it back within range of your body in time before the spell ends, *you die*.

So there are two potential point failures: if the PCs discover either the jar or the BBEG's seemingly-dead and helpless body, that's game over. A wise BBEG will make sure that the jar is someplace undetectable (in a lead-lined box buried in an unmarked location 20' below ground, or whatever) and that his body is somewhere very well guarded and very hard to get at. Again, the best defense here is to have the PCs not thinking "magic jar" so that it never occurs to them to go looking.

3) Finally, note that you can't study your spellbook while your soul is in a jar. So a BBEG wizard will gradually run out of spells while bouncing in and out of hosts. (So will a BBEG sorceror, but it will take longer.) This can be to some degree offset by making the hosts get physically more powerful and dangerous as the BBEG works through them.

4) Oh, and: if the PCs do figure out that they're dealing with Magic Jar? That's bad in one way, but good in another: knowing there's a body-jumper around is likely to dramatically crank up PC paranoia. After all, the BBEG could possess anyone! So, play into this -- pass an occasional note to a PC, or have an NPC act a little strangely.


Doug M.

-- So how do you control a captive wizard, even an old and frail one? You could put some kind of spell-blocking shackles on him. Or just burn his spellbook. That's simple enough. But then you don't get much use out of him -- he's just a rather fragile old slave.

Here's a thought: Kindly Old Wizard might be able to blast his way out, but Duke Badguy has a hostage. Let's say it's KOW's illegitimate son, who he's always felt terribly guilty about. So, KOW works for Duke, or Duke has son killed. Duke, being evil and all, is milking this situation for all it's worth -- he's pushing KOW to be his enforcer, summon fiends for him, whatever. The local peasantry are terrified of the Duke's wicked mage! The PCs won't start knowing that KOW is being blackmailed, and they may be confronted by disturbing evidence that he has turned (or been turned) to the Dark Side.

Possible twist: son is evil too. He's always hated his father, and he's happy to work for the Duke. So, KOW's plea to rescue him may lead to a fun surprise for the PCs... Make the son a bard, perhaps. Evil bards are creepy.

[rubbing chin] Thoughts?

Doug M.

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Having a spellcaster in the body of some big dumb brute -- a Frost Giant or an earth elemental or some such -- is always amusing. It's unexpected, and you get a nice bump to your CON/hp and Fort save.

Things with unusual movement, especially things with Burrow and things that breathe water. High level PCs are usually ready to fly and to deal with flying opponents. Things that can pop out of rock or water, cast, and pop back? Trickier. Things with environmental immunities are also situationally useful. Imagine a final confrontation with the BBEG in a lava cavern -- it's 140 degrees and there are pools of lava everywhere. And he's squatting in the middle of the biggest lava pool, in the body of a red dragon.

Possessing an outsider is also an interesting twist. They have SR and good Will saves, and you can't access their Ex, Su, or SLA abilities, but if you can pull it off it's pretty cool. "Demonic possession? Ah ha ha ha."

Doug M.

Sorry, should have given more details. Party of 3 PCs: 4th level tiefling sorceror (nothing special, burning hands / mage armor / charm person / general face), 4th level elf monk, other PC TBD because he died last time but probably a fighter type.

The Duke can be killed off or not -- I haven't developed him at all.

Doug M.

Okay, not actually a princess. One of my PCs generated a background a while back that went something like this: the PC, a sorceror, is a tiefling who was taken in by a kindly wizard. The wizard has since been kidnapped by Evil Duke Von Badguy, and the tiefling wants to rescue him.

We generated this a while ago, and it's come up a couple of times. I was thinking, yeah, plot hook we'll get around to it at some point. But now the player is going to leave the campaign soon, and he's said his character would like to resolve the "captured mentor" plot or die trying.

Well okay! So now I need to come up with a "rescue the kindly old wizard from the evil Duke" scenario. Not normally my kind of thing exactly, but that's why we have the glorious hive mind of the Paizo forums, right?

Parameters: we've never gone into more detail than what's listed above. The PC is a 4th level tiefling sorceror; APL is 4th. The adventure has to be playable in two or at most three sessions, because that's all the time the player will have -- let's say eight hours of gaming time. An existing scenario that can be adapted is fine, but I can also string together some encounters to create something from scratch; either is good.

So. Thoughts?

Doug M.

Glad you have enjoyed it! And after all -- there's no reason she couldn't level up and appear once more. I think she works as a recurring nuisance/distraction better than as a menace, but season to taste.

Doug M.

Derklord wrote:
I don't see why it should be a small race. Ragdoll would be normal human size if he'd ever stand up straight. I think he has actually pretty long legs.

Maybe? Certainly the size penalty is a nuisance to work around.

I think Tetori fits perfectly - boni both to grapple and to evade movement restrictions.

Huh. I was thinking a Rogue/Brawler(Strangler) mix, starting with Agile Maneuvers and building up the Grapple feat chain. But the Tetori could work too! Not sure how he deals much damage, though.

If you want to emulate the multiple jointed-thing, ask your GM if you can ignore the prereqs on the Bag of Bones feat.

Oh, that splatbook had some fine feats for our undead friends! Such memories.

Doug M.

If you never read Gail Simone's original Secret Six comics, go look them up now -- they were great. Six B- through D-list DC supervillains, banded together at first for survival and then as mercenaries. They definitely weren't good guys, but they were usually matched against opponents who were much worse, so you ended up rooting for them... more or less.

Anyway! One of the founding members of the Six was Ragdoll, a talented acrobat and contortionist who had gone through a series of horrific operations to replace most of his joints with smooth polymer surfaces. (Because Daddy issues. Long story.) The result left him emaciated and hideously scarred, but very very flexible. In combat, he would basically ooze out of sight, then suddenly drop on your neck out of nowhere. He could use simple weapons like knives and clubs, but he clearly preferred strangling people.

Now, the Scrawny Little Dude Who Strangles You From Behind is actually a pretty solid fantasy trope -- Gollum most obviously, but there are others -- so it got me to thinking: is there a way to make this work in PF? Starting with a halfling, gnome, or other small-sized race, could you create a character that has a respectable strangling attack? It doesn't have to be AM BARBARIAN levels of damage -- just, something that's playable. Incapacitating foes so your friends can finish them off works too.

The major problems I see are (1) size penalty to grappling checks, and (2) slowness of strangulation in PF unless you pile on a lot of feats.

Has anyone tried building something like this?

Doug M.

My Self wrote:
I was thinking that Drow or Tieflings could snag Darkness as an SLA. And since you're casting it on your fighter, you close a bunch of range problems. Or, if there's dim light, there's no need to cast it. It ends with your fighter needing to be next to your enemy, and you needing to be somewhere within 15 feet of them. That's a better deal than the Rogue's Sneak Attack gets. Granted, you're right that it takes more setup for less reward than, say, -3 to hit or -3 to damage. But it might be workable, so yeah.

Yeah -- it's not trash, and it probably belongs in the "okay" group. But the gap between the "okay" group and the "excellent" group is still pretty large.

Sluggishness is still complete trash. Well, unless you're dealing with non-mounted halflings and gnomes in heavy armor. Then it's just mostly trash.


Doug M.

Well, tactically that combo faces the problem of range -- Darkness is 20', and the mesmerist's stare is 30', and the target has to be within range of both. So yes the target loses the ability to 5' step, and that's nice -- but if it moves just a little distance away, it leaves the "difficult" terrain. And it doesn't affect flyers or diggers or swimmers, and is kinda marginal against things with more than 10' reach. And Darkness is not on the Mesmerist spell list -- though, to be sure, Use Magic Device + a wand will fix that pretty easily.

All that said, I see your point. I might move this to the "okay" category, especially if you're in a party that has a melee monster and/or is very tactically inclined. Good catch.


Doug M.

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The Mesmerist is IMO the coolest new class in a long time, and the stares and stare powers are a big part of the reason why. So, here's a mini-guide to the Bold Stares. (Nova Wurmson has already done a general Guide to the Mesmerist, and it's pretty good and I agree with most of it. I just think there's more to be said on this particular topic.)


You get your first Bold Stare at 3rd level, then one every four levels thereafter, to a maximum of five at 19th level. That's a very small number of slots, so you want to choose wisely. The Bold Stares are additive with your base Hypnotic Stare and with each other. A stare is a swift action (yeah!) and ignores SR and Will saves (yeah!). However, it requires you to be within 30' of the target (boo!) and, as a mind-affecting effect, is useless against golems, oozes, and other mindless creatures (bah!).

The Four Excellent Stares

Disorientation: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies on attack rolls. As Nova notes, this is just solid. A swift action debuff that ignores SR and saves, and slaps the target with -2 or -3 on all attacks? You can argue whether or not it's the very best, but it clearly belongs in the top four. Bam, instant debuff on a dragon or fiend or boss: straight-up fine. Debuffing is always, always good.

Two caveats. One, like all other stares, it doesn't work on mindless creatures, so don't bother trying it against that stone golem (though see below). Two, like all other stares, you have to get within 30' -- and mesmerists can be squish, and just because you debuffed it doesn't mean it won't hit you. So, either buff up in advance, or make sure your friend Mr. Meat Shield is right there on your twelve where he belongs.

Psychic Inception: The stare and its penalty can affect creatures that are mindless or immune to mind-affecting effects, such as undead or vermin. You can also partially affect such creatures with mind-affecting spells and abilities if it's under the effect of this stare; it gains a +2 bonus on its saving throw (if any), and if affected, it still has a 50% chance each round of ignoring the effect. -- So, everybody loves this, and it's easy to see why; there are a lot of mindless creatures in the game. This stare removes one of your biggest weaknesses, and it also lets you do weird game-bending stuff like Dominating vampires or casting Suggestion on oozes. (And hey -- oozes have really crappy Will saves.) That said, I don't think this is necessarily the very best stare. After all, there are lots of other ways of dealing with these creatures; the cleric can channel against undead, the wizard can freeze or burn the ooze, and so forth. That said, let's note that this is additive with other stares -- so if you take both this and Disorientation, you can debuff pretty much everything you meet.

Sapped Magic: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies to the DCs of spells and spell-like abilities used by the target, and to the target's SR. This would probably not be your 3rd level choice, because you don't meet that many creatures with SR or dangerous SLAs at low levels. But at higher levels, when you do, you will want this. And, oh yeah, it works on enemy spellcasters too. If you build into this -- for instance, with a Cha-based build, Spell Focus: Enchantment and Spell Penetration -- you could have a character who regularly dominates things like dragons that are normally just untouchable due to high SR and great Will saves.

Susceptibility: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies to the target's Sense Motive checks to oppose Bluff checks, and to the DCs of Diplomacy and Intimidate checks made against the target. So this one is less obviously excellent than the other three. But it is in fact just as good -- as long as you're in a campaign where social interaction is a thing, so that you're regularly using these skills. Note that your Bluff is going to be sky-high anyway; this lets you pump it even higher, and a high enough Bluff roll effectively lets you alter reality. And if you build for Diplomacy (take the Cult Master archetype and/or the Silver Tongued alternate human racial trait) or for Intimidate (any of several intimadation-based builds) this will really ease your way.

The Okay Stares

Allure: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies on initiative checks and Perception checks. Well, debuffing a target's Perception sounds great, but is actually very situational -- I mean, usually if you can see him, he can see you. Sure, this could be useful in a "sneaking past the guards" type scenario, but isn't that really the rogue's job? As to bumping initiative, this makes it slightly more likely that party members will get their hits in first, and that's always good. But it's probably not as good as the Excellent Four, unless you're in an all-rogue party or something weird like that.

Infiltration: The stare penalty also applies to the target's Perception checks and CMD. See discussion of perception above. As for CMD, that's not bad, especially if you or another PC are built around CMB attacks. There are dirty trick mesmerist builds, and then of course you may simply have a grappling or sundering fighter as your meat shield. So, could be good -- it depends.

Nightmare: The target of the stare rolls twice on all Will saves versus fear, taking the lower result. The problem with this is that the PF spell list doesn't actually have a lot of great fear spells. (Quick: when was the last time you saw someone play a fear-based build? No, not intimidate, but fear magic?) Still, I guess you could build a character around this, because "roll twice at -2 or -3 and take the lower roll" is pretty close to autofail. And you could certainly build a memorable NPC. "Nobody can stand against... Lord Menace!"

Timidity: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies to damage rolls. Mathematically, this will almost never be as good as Disorientation. And it only scales weakly with level; while -2 damage is meaningful when fighting orcs at 3rd level, -3 damage is just not going to be that helpful against the Thanatotic Titan. However, you could combine it with Disorientation to really ruin an attacker's day.

The WTH stares

Disquiet: The target of the hypnotic stare is shaken while in areas of total darkness. Presumably you also must be in total darkness, right? Since you're at most 30 feet away? Well, Shaken is a pretty nice debuff, and it's untyped so it stacks with your other stare penalties. So, I guess maybe if (1) you and everyone in your party have darkvision, and (2) you're planning to spend a lot of time in the Underdark or slinking around on cloudy moonless nights, then you might consider this. Otherwise, leave this to that vampire mesmerist NPC build that your DM is giggling over.

Lethality: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies to the target's Fortitude saves versus poison and diseases. This is pretty clearly intended for NPC villain builds. In theory you could get some mileage out of it if you had a multiclassed mesmerist poison user, but that would be a very weird character.

Nightblindness: The darkvision range of the stare's target decreases by 10 feet. Wait, what? How is that ever going to be useful? I guess if you have darkvision too, you could stand just outside his new visibility range? Really, this one is just silly.

Oscillation: The target of the hypnotic stare treats all enemies beyond 30 feet (except the mesmerist) as having concealment (20% miss chance). Wait, all targets BEYOND 30 feet? So... I guess this is supposed to be used against specialist missile attackers? In some weird situation where the mesmerist is 30' or closer, but his friends are further away? I can't really make sense of this one.

Restriction: The target of the hypnotic stare treats all areas of dim light or darker as difficult terrain. On one hand, "dim light or darker" is a lot less restrictive than total darkness. Lots of dungeon crawls take place in dim light. On the other, imposing difficult terrain on a single enemy is not all that great. Not completely worthless, but not good enough to take.

Sabotage: The hypnotic stare penalty also applies to the target's Diplomacy and Intimidate checks. Unless your DM is constantly throwing Intimidate builds at you, this is pretty pointless. To be fair, Intimidate is an Achilles heel for psychic casters -- there aren't a lot of good defenses against it, and the Shaken condition shuts down your casting, because emotions. But the correct answer is to invest in a metamagic rod of Logical Spell as insurance, not to burn one of your precious stare slots on this silly power.

Sluggishness: The target of the hypnotic stare has all of its speeds reduced by 5 feet (to a minimum of 5 feet), and the hypnotic stare penalty also applies to the target's Reflex saving throws. Hey, you can weaken the bad guy's save against your buddy the wizard's fireball spell! wait, what's the blast radius on that again? Unless someone in your party is really specializing hard in Reflex save spells, this is not worth bothering with.

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.

The imp companion scales with level. It also can fly, turn invisible, is intelligent, and has hands. So you can do all sorts of things with it, from buffing it into a rogue-replacing scout to using it as a wand-wielding mobile weapons platform.

Hellfire Channel is crazy fun if you're in a campaign fighting lots of good-aligned creatures, and there are several feats, items and racial traits that can combine with it to produce some excellent synergies. The Charisma bonus means you're bloody amazing at calling devils, and there are lots of different kinds of devils -- brutes, scouts, controllers, you name it.

If you build carefully, a Diabolist can be roughly as powerful as a full wizard, and situationally -- like when blasting a paldin with hellfire -- more so. And it's just extremely flavorful and fun.

Doug M.

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Leandro Garvel wrote:
Sapped Magic is definitely one of the better scaling Bold Stare options. -3 DC and SR is far more important than, say, -3 damage (Timidity option) at higher levels.

Timidity isn't worthless, but it rapidly fades after midlevels. Mathematically speaking, you will almost always be better off using Disorientation (-2 or -3 on attack rolls). Especially since it's an untyped bonus that can stack with almost every other debuff (except for the Evil Eye hex, alas).

More generally, the good stares seem to be Sapped Magic, Disorientation, Psychic Inception (zap undead and golems and other things normally immune), and Susceptibility (get your stare bonus on Intimidate, Diplomacy, and Bluff vs. Sense Motive contests). The others are either situational or just not that great. But those four are all good to excellent, and will keep you going up to 18th level.

Doug M.

avr wrote:
Haven't played with it, but remember that a mesmerist is a 6-level caster and at 8th level won't have a spell higher than 3rd level. That's just 1 lower DC, but the best 4th level spells also tend to have more power than the best 3rd level spells - more targets or more general use or better effects or whatever.

True, true -- but OTOH the Mesmerist gets several nasty save-or-suck spells a level earlier than the full casters. So, they get Suggestion as a second level spell, and Dominate Person as fourth level.

Doug M.

This is just amazing. You get to apply your stare penalty (-2 up to 7th level, then -3 at 8th level and thereafter) to the victim's SR, and to the DCs of all its spells and SLAs. That's, like... two and a half feats? It's anyway amazing.

Consider an 8th level caster trying to hit a Vrock demon with a DC 19 spell that targets will. Wally the Wizard or Carl the Cleric must roll a 12 to beat the demon's SR (45% chance) and then the vrock must fail its +6 Will save (60% chance). So, the total chance of success is (45% x 60%) 27% -- pretty meh. But Max the Mesmerist will beat SR on a 9 (60% chance) and crush the demon's Will unless it rolls a 16 or better (75%) chance. So, total chance of success is (60% x 75%) 45% -- nearly double the other casters. The power of the Stare is partly balanced by its short range -- if Max fails, he's 30 feet or less away from an angry vrock -- but that's why the gods made meat shields.

And Max is giving *his entire party* an effective +3 against the vrock's stunning screech and telekinesis. If you're facing a controller-type monster, a mass debuffer, an enemy caster, or pretty much anything that's going to force you to make lots of saving throws against spells or SLAs... you shove Max right up to the front row.

Has anyone played with this much? Is it as good as it looks?

Doug M.

Just discovered this thread. I have to say, your idea of starting with the PCs as teenage slaves of Lamm was pretty brilliant.

Doug M.

So... did this ever continue?

Doug M.

Oh, and had Zellara hang around -- she's haunting the Harrow deck. Shows up randomly, can't be called, but can sometimes give the PCs good advice.

Doug M.

It's been a while, but:

-- Made Laori Vaus a fellow escapee from Lamm. (Specifically, she and one of the PCs had managed to escape together. This made that PC really soft on her, even though it was very clear from the start that she was capital-E Evil.)

-- Made Pilts the son of Lamm. The PCs remembered him as Lamm's fat son who would come around asking for money to support various artistic pursuits. He didn't seem evil, but was in no way helpful or interested in the abused kids either.

-- Made the rakshasas more deeply involved in the city, and made them enemies of the Queen, so that the PCs got support from the Queen in wiping them out. Also, added a lawful good duellist niece, who had no idea what the rest of her family really were (no ranks in Sense Motive); she started off as an ally of the PCs, but of course ended up as a bitter enemy.

-- Added an early trip to the Cinderlands between modules 1 and 2. The PCs at this point were 3rd level, much too low to handle the Cinderlands, so they spent much of the time running and hiding, except for the bit where they got captured by a bunch of Shoanti.

Doug M.

Palmizio, glad you liked the Guide! There's a slightly updated version of it on the forums, but 95% of it is unchanged. Also, if you really want to dig deeply into calling things, check out DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding (still a work in progress) and DMDM's Mini-Guide to Gate.

Doug M.

I just realized that the maenad's Charm Monster ability can be used to give it one or more companions. In the legends, they were sometimes accompanied by panthers or snakes. So you'd be perfectly justified in giving maenads a dire tiger or even something weirder.

The original Greek maenads were violent and dangerous. The Paizo version is slightly more social -- they want to tempt (or force) ordinary people into acts of debauchery and horror. So, they can be used in connection with Paizo demons or evil deities as part of a scheme of corruption. (Note again their Disguise skill. They could appear as pretty peasant girls, spreading out a simple but tasty country lunch. Or as picnicking aristocratic ladies.)

Finally, if you want to be really vicious, consider teaming maenads with something that works through mind control or suggestion. Eating their food is an instant -4 on Will saves, and their mad hallucination spell is likely to peel off another -2. Then the controller shows up...

Doug M.

No, not the Dreamscarred Press version. The Paizo one, from Bestiary 4.

So we have a CR 8, chaotic evil monstrous humanoid -- I view that as a misstep, myself, should have been fey, but never mind -- whose main attack is a 60' radius Confusion effect, DC 19, duration one hour (!), and that also has a very respectable poison attack based on claw-claw-bite.

Tactically, a maenad is one of those strange monsters that's either very easy or a potential party-killer depending on how you handle it. Correct play is to stand off beyond that 60' radius and nuke her with missile weapons and fireballs. There is literally nothing the maenad can do against that; her SR 19 may keep her alive an extra round or two, but her AC is an unimpressive 20, so if you have a missile specialist you can simply pepper her with arrows until she dies or runs away. Easy-peasy if you know what's up.

However, if you let her get close? That mass DC 19 Will save is likely to take out one or more party members, especially low-will melee types. (And let's pause a moment to note that if you don't have some magical means of dealing with it, 600 rounds of confusion is very likely to be a death sentence. If nothing else, it's 150 rounds of attacking yourself for d8+Str damage. The party may be able to jump you and tie you up, but they'll have have to deal with the maenad first.) Then your squishy caster has to deal with that claw-claw-bite FRA at +13, injecting him with up to three doses of DC 19 Con-damaging poison. Troublesome.

However, the real trouble arises if you join the maenad's party. This is more plausible than you might think; these ladies have Bluff +14 and Disguise +11, meaning they can appear to be something harmless, and they're more than smart enough to try. Eat their food, and you get a +2 untyped bonus to Strength and Constitution, 1d8 temporary hit points, and a +4 morale bonus on fear saves for 12 hours. Sweet! Oh, and you also get -4 on saves against the maenad's other spells, which include mad hallucination (another -2 on Will saves) and charm monster. So the maenad melts your brain, charms you, gets you good and drunk, maybe engages in a bit of debauchery with you of whatever sort floats your boat... and then she casts bulls strength and rage on herself and starts her pole dance routine to drive you insane. And if that doesn't work, she simply rips you apart with a +17 poisonous claw-claw-bite routine

Maenads are straight out of Greek mythology (and it's a bit surprising it took this long for anyone to adapt them). Thematically, they fall into that category of "wow, the ancient Greeks had some issues with female sexuality" female monsters along with the medusa, the lamia, harpies, sirens, etc. etc. So you could definitely play up the revenge-against-men aspect if you want to. On the other hand, they also work just fine as chaotic evil nature spirits, interested simply in regressing you to an animalistic state. In this version, it's not men they hate, but the pretensions of civilization; they're going to bark-strip you down to eat / fight / kill / mate / die, and then dine on the gobbets of flesh that are left over.

In campaign terms, they're great as either random encounters or as signs of some taint or malevolent influence in a kingdom or region. At the tough end of CR 8, they're suitable for a range of party levels; one maenad could be a dangerous boss for an APL 5 party, while a troupe of three or four could give an APL 12 party a hard time. Adding fighter or caster levels works great, too; season to taste.


Doug M.

James Jacobs wrote:
For what it's worth, I prefer prestige classes to archetypes.

Yah, me too. There's just something about working and building towards a goal over multiple sessions, you know? In terms of actual play, the flavor is very different from archetypes.

But anyway, thanks for the swift and clear response!

Doug M.

2 people marked this as a favorite.

So here is the semi-offical word from James Jacobs on PrCs, from about half an hour ago. I wrote to ask the following:


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

James, has Paizo pretty much given up on Prestige Classes? Because I notice that there hasn't been a new one published in nearly two years -- the last was in April 2014. And apparently, some people have been saying that many archetypes + many new base classes = PrCs are not needed any more (and/or they were a holdover from 3.5 anyway, and/or they don't fit with the way Paizo likes to design its classes, etc. etc.)

I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I will note that there's clearly still a lot of love on the boards and in PBP for at least some PrCs -- people do seem to dig their Hellknights, Aldori Swordlords, and Diabolists.


Doug M.

And James replied as follows:


The design team has embraced archetypes over prestige classes for the rules books, but no, we haven't "given up" on prestige classes. There are some coming soon in "Inner Sea Intrigue" I believe, but we also printed three in "Inner Sea Gods" as well. They'll show up now and then, irregularly, as needed and as justified by the product. Pathfinder's shifted away from 3.5's use of prestige classes as the primary way to introduce new player options (we use archetypes and new base classes for that), and to using them to expand world flavor in Golarion. Which is kind of the best use for prestige classes.

For what it's worth, I prefer prestige classes to archetypes.

So there you have it.


Doug M.

Browman wrote:
I have never understood why people expect some prestige classes to basically be a base class+.

Well, that's pretty much the way it worked in 3.5.

A lot of Paizo's design philosophy is a reaction to 3.5 -- either building on its good points, or flinching away from its flaws and excesses. This is particularly true in the case of prestige classes. PrCs got badly, horribly broken in 3.5 -- so Paizo swung hard in the opposite direction, making them narrow, thematic, and typically a bit underpowered. (And now, it seems, abandoning them altogether.)

Doug M.

James, has Paizo pretty much given up on Prestige Classes? Because I notice that there hasn't been a new one published in nearly two years -- the last was in April 2014. And apparently, some people have been saying that many archetypes + many new base classes = PrCs are not needed any more (and/or they were a holdover from 3.5 anyway, and/or they don't fit with the way Paizo likes to design its classes, etc. etc.)

I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I will note that there's clearly still a lot of love on the boards and in PBP for at least some PrCs -- people do seem to dig their Hellknights, Aldori Swordlords, and Diabolists.


Doug M.

Calth wrote:
SKR did a podcast on why Pathfinder has basically moved on from Prestige Classes

I saw that podcast and disagreed sharply with it. For starters, it gave the strong impression that SKR had long ago reached a conclusion (don't like PrCs!) and was reasoning backwards from it.

Prestige classes are supposed to be entered at level 6 and go through 15 for a typical 10 level prestige classes, so that's where their powers are balanced and designed for. And that's the major issue. If you enter a prestige class late, your character will get progressively weaker (as compared to the standard power curve) as you level.

No. This is not necessarily true. Yes, it is true for many Paizo PrCs, because the majority of Paizo PrCs hew to a very rigid design philosophy -- they assume you will enter at the earliest possible level, and design the class accordingly. But that's not the only way to design PrCs!

Consider, for a single example, the Diabolist. The Diabolist is a great, well-designed PrC! I suspect that's by accident, but never mind. It gives you (1) an imp companion whose powers scale with your total character level, so it doesn't matter when you enter the class; (2) a scaling bonus to Charisma checks against called devils, which encourages you to enter the class early, but is still equally good if you enter a level or two later; and, (3) the ability to swap in Hellfire for damage-dealing spells, which is thematic, balanced, and equally nice at all levels.

Starting Diabolist at 6th level is probably better than starting it at 10th -- but not so much better that it's compulsory. You have tradeoffs that give you a meaningful choice.

It wouldn't actually be hard to do this with most PrCs. But instead, Paizo has stuck to a very narrow, rather dogmatic set of guidelines for PrC design -- and then has blamed PrCs for not being flexible enough.

Doug M.

Blake's Tiger wrote:
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
(2) Can anyone say when Paizo's most recent published PrC was?

The last one I found was Pain Taster in 5/2014 (Occult Realms).

The three good ones in Inner Sea Gods in 4/2014.
One before that, Envoy of Balance, another nice one in 3/2014.

I haven't been able to find one since those.

Wow, so none for almost two years.

So it looks like they really are giving up PrCs. Dang.

Doug M.

I will note that there are some PrCs that are both mechanically powerful and thematically interesting -- and fun to play, as well. I'd note in particular the Diabolist and the Champion of Irori.

I understand the design philosophy that emphasizes archetypes instead of PrCs. But I think giving up PrCs altogether is missing a bet.

Anyway. (1) Does anyone have a cite to the effect that Paizo has abandoned PrCs? (2) Can anyone say when Paizo's most recent published PrC was?

Doug M.

Blake's Tiger wrote:
They already did. It has been years since the last PrC and they have said they won't be publishing more.

Huh. Cite?

Doug M.

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