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Douglas Muir 406's page

8,482 posts. 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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Light posting over this pre-Christmas weekend.

How're y'all doing?

+32 damage... dang.

Waiting on Ulp and Zoren?

Some Other Guy wrote:

But it also has a mind of it's own. Why would it do that for you?

Dude, it's lawful evil, emphasis lawful. You're its master. It's been assigned to you by a greater evil power. It's bound to obedience. And it comes from Hell! So it knows, all too well, that there are things worse than death.

Doug M.

Second part of the ever-growing Guide to Planar Binding! Part 1 can be found right here.

Part 6: You and Your Bound Outsider:

What can you do? You can order your bound outsider around, within the limits of the service you've demanded from it. (Which may well be simply "Accept my orders". You can cast spells on it, good and bad (though see below). But you can't order it on suicide missions, and you can't demand it do things it cannot do -- "Impossible demands or unreasonable commands are never agreed to". A called creature is not a summoned monster. You can't send it down the corridor to set off traps, nor can you order it to heroically hold off the demi-lich for a couple of rounds while you make your escape. It gets to protect its own life and continued existence, above any orders you might give it.

In terms of fighting for you, I would say that you can order it into combat against creatures of a lower CR, or more generally into combats where it's not at serious risk, whether because it's fighting alongside you and your party or for some other reason. But the RAW implies that there is a point where combat becomes "unreasonable", whether because the creature is badly injured or just because it perceives that its life is at serious risk. At that point, self-preservation kicks in and the creature seeks to flee. It is still bound to service -- "never agreed to" does not mean "breaks loose". But it's not going back to that particular fight, or at least not until things change to its advantage.

Finally, you can't order the creature to take actions that are obviously inconsistent with its nature or its alignment. The planetar just isn't going to massacre a bunch of paladins for you, amusing though the notion may be, and the azata isn’t going to help you enslave a bunch of people. The service you require may be difficult, unpleasant, and even somewhat dangerous, but it can't be something the creature would regard as morally abhorrent. That's "unreasonable" and it's not going to fly.

What can it do? The creature can still use all its SLAs skills, feats and abilities. And it will, for its own motivations and purposes, unless you specifically bind or instruct it not to. A succubus may use her Suggestion on your fellow party members. A shadow demon may possess an NPC. Devils will want to tempt people to wickedness. Daemons will want to hurt and kill people; fire elementals will want to burn stuff; angels will want to help, heal and rescue. That's their nature. You'll need to keep them on a short leash.

And, of course, the creature may well resent being bound, and may connive at your downfall and destruction. Note that called creatures get to use their SLAs and skills; a conjured devil can use Bluff to lie to you, Sense Motive to figure out what you really want, and so forth. The brighter ones are perfectly capable of pretending to be fine with the situation while quietly plotting something truly horrible for you down the line.

One way to think of this is as something like a hierarchy of motivations. Remember Asimov's Laws of Robotics? Something like that:

I. A bound creature will act to preserve its own life and will act consistently with its alignment.
II. A bound creature will obey the terms of its binding, except where this directly conflicts with Rule I.
III. A bound creature will seek to carry out its own agenda, except where this directly conflicts with Rules I or II.

Enchantments and other tricks. An interesting question is whether you can cast spells on your bound outsider -- Dominate, say, or Geas/Quest -- to make it safer and less troublesome. I'd say you can, but you can't command the creature to fail its save and accept your spell. That would be pretty obviously "unreasonable". You could even argue that being Dominated could potentially endanger the creature's life and/or force it to act against its alignment, and thus an unsuccessful attempt to cast Dominate would break the binding right there. I think that's an extreme interpretation, myself, but discuss this with your DM in advance. Certainly any attempt to Dominate or otherwise enchant a creature is likely to ratchet its resentment factor way, way up.

Does anything break the binding? The RAW doesn't mention anything, so I'm inclined to be conservative on this point. That said, I would say that if you attempt to kill the creature, either directly or by ordering it into a near-certain-death situation, then that would probably do it.

Part 7: Sly Tricks:

I think these are cheesy as hell, myself, but James Jacobs has said the first two are legal IHO. If you can think of others, please let me know.

The succubus trick. You call a succubus and get her to grant her Profane Gift. Then you zap her with Flesh to Stone. Since the RAW says that petrified creatures are treated as "unconscious", you keep the Gift. You stick the stone statue in a basement room, hang a sign saying "Accounting Records -- Sz through Ta" on the door, and walk away whistling with +2 to your prime stat. James Jacobs says this would be a chaotic evil act (I agree). I'd add that it would eventually attract notice from senior and powerful succubi. That said, if you can pull it off, it's RAW-legal.

The efreeti's Wish trick. You can call and bind an efreet pretty easily with Planar Binding and demand a Wish from it. This means that by casting a 6th level spell, you can get the benefit of a 9th level spell (and save the 25,000 gp component cost as well). Obviously if done repeatedly this will blow game balance right out the window, to plummet flaming to the rocks far below. That said, it's RAW-legal. The DM's only recourses are (1) to aggressively and creatively pervert any Wishes that are granted, and/or (2) to eventually cause greater powers among the efreeti to take notice and act against this insolent mortal.

The lantern archon continual flame trick: bind a lantern archon, and use it to cast continual flame on 1,000 nails. Try to sell them "at cost" (50 gp each) to a city as street lanterns. I expect you’d crash the market pretty fast, but you could probably make some money with this.

Kill Them and Take Their Stuff: If you study the monster listings carefully, you’ll spot a few that have good treasure for their CR. For instance, the bralani Azata has a +1 scimitar and a +1 composite longbow. At higher levels you can conjure a bralani before breakfast, straight up murder it – they can’t plane shift or teleport – and then take its weapons and sell them for a fast 2,000 gp. (A totally evil act, of course, but hey – 2,000 gp.)

The Reward of Service trick. Worried about your creatures conspiring against you once they get back to Hell or wherever? Well, why let them go back? On their last day of service, kill them.

Part 8: Aftereffects:

Planar Bindings are so potentially powerful that we can reasonably ask why the campaign world isn't full of arcanists commanding legions of bound outsiders. In-game, two explanations suggest themselves. One is that any caster who constantly binds outsiders will, sooner or later, make some irrevocable and lethal mistake. The other is that sooner or later these casters will bring themselves to the attention of powerful planar forces, ancient and mighty creatures that don't take kindly to uppity mortals snatching their servants or children away. Both of these ideas should be in the DM's toolkit for balancing against a PC who is getting carried away with Planar Binding.

As to the attention of powerful outsiders... absolutely yes! In fact, this is really the only recourse a DM has against some of the cheesier tricks that can be played with this spell. So, if you call lots and lots of outsiders, be aware that sooner or later Hell (or the Abyss, or Nirvana, or wherever) is going to notice you... either because the outsiders themselves are talking once they get home, or because someone realizes that a bunch of them have gone missing. The DM is completely justified in having senior outsiders take corrective actions -- whether direct (one fine morning just after breakfast, a Cornugon Plane Shifts into your living room with a blast of flame and a roar of rage) or more subtle (three advanced Shadow Demons are dispatched to begin an elaborate conspiracy against you, working through NPCs and other party members). This sort of thing will IMO be likely to happen faster if you're regularly forcing your targets to do stuff that ticks them off. I’d also say that Lawful creatures would seem more likely to tell their bosses about you, while Chaotic creatures would seem more likely to carry lingering grudges and/or come up with creative or bizarre ways to seek revenge.

On the plus side, if you survive, word is going to get around. If you're very scary, very fair, or both, your reputation might grow to the point that you get an occasional bonus on opposed Cha checks just because everyone knows about you. I'd say that could only happen after you'd called a lot of creatures and survived at least one major attack or conspiracy, myself, but it's theoretically possible.

In general, my recommendation to fellow DMs would be "be liberal in what you allow this spell to do, but be equally liberal in coming up with ways for it to go horribly wrong". To be fair, let the player know in advance that this is a dangerous spell that's famous for going spectacularly pear-shaped. Then going forward, when in doubt, apply the Rule of Cool.

Two pieces remain: a section on how to build towards a specialized planar binder character (that will overlap a lot with the Diabolist guide) and a long list of outsiders that you can call with this spell. I'm thinking to crowdsource the latter.

Anyway: thoughts?

Doug M.

CWheezy wrote:
My friend used the imp with bodyguard and in harm's way and used it to soak hits. If it dies, oh well, they are free to replace!

This. Unlike a familiar, the imp is free to replace! So don't be shy about putting it in harm's way. (And don't feel guilty, either. It's evil, and very likely so are you.)

Doug M.

If you're a Wiz 10 / Diabolist 2, you can use Planar Binding to call up all sorts of nasties to fight for you. And, really, you should be doing that. (Subject to your DM agreeing, of course.) If you have an Osyluth or a pack of Nessian Hell Hounds working for you, then you don't really need the imp to enter combat. Give it UMD and use it as a wand platform.

-- The Nessian Hell Hound has no SR, a lowish Will save, and a laughable 6 Cha. So if you're looking for some straightforward combat muscle, call up a couple of these puppies. They can't fly or teleport, and they don't have any SLAs -- all they do is bite, trip, and breathe fire. But they're great bodyguards and, unlike more intelligent outsiders, are unlikely to plot horrible revenge against you. You can call up more powerful creatures, but try a couple of these guys first and see how it works out.

Have you read DMDM's Guide to the Diabolist?

Doug M.

Blakmane wrote:
You are much better putting multiple points into one skill rather than single points into multiple skills. The difficulty of checks you may make with the relevant skills assume, at a given character level, you have put at least one point in to said skill at every one of those character levels.

1) This is not actually true.

2) There are a lot of skills that are one-rank wonders. Most obviously, there are skills like UMD and the Knowledges which cannot be used untrained. But there are also skills where training makes a huge difference; for instance, a failed trained Appraise check gives you the same result as a successful untrained Appraise check.

This is not to say that spraying skill ranks around is always a good idea. You have a limited number, and sometimes it's better to emphasize just a few. But you are not actually "much better" emphasizing a couple of skills. It's actually a fairly balanced system.

Doug M.

The stormborn is not a popular bloodline for powergamers, but I like it myself -- it's very flavorful. Don't forget you can give your fellow party members a nice little d6 boost on damage if you have a round or two to prepare before combat. (At higher levels, there will be more useful ways to spend a buff round, but right now it's still a thing you could do.)

Your low AC and general squishiness should encourage you to look at long-range spells; Shocking Grasp is great and all, but with AC 12, CMD 12 and just 31 hp you don't really want to be standing next to the monster.

Consider some buff and/or battlefield control spells if the bard doesn't have that covered already -- right now you're mostly a blaster, which is fine, but unless you optimize it's hard for a pure blaster to keep up with pure melee types in damage output.

Doug M.

I'll post Part 2 in the next day or so. In the meantime, does anyone have any comments on the text so far?

Doug M.

Lune wrote:
For those interested in this guide but not interested in Diabolists (like me) a repetition would be appreciated. If you think of it positively you already have the work done, you just need to transcribe it.

Sure... it'll just end up being a crazy long document (like 50 pages).


Also, yeah. There are a lot of outsiders. Want some help? How could we best assist?

I'm thinking of posting a group for each spell (lesser planar, planar, greater planar) and then asking for comments and additions. There's really no way I can list every dang outsider -- I've already got about 70 of them, and I know I've just scratched the surface -- but maybe we can crowdsource it?

Doug M.

Note going forward: the general rule for percentage rolling is "low means something happened". So, if Blur has a 20% miss chance, the miss happens on a 1-20. I've occasionally hiccuped on that, but that should be the default rule.

Round Two: Ulp, Zoren, Dren, Edmin Jax and the Judge, hold your fire until we see how many of the enemy are still standing (floating) at the end of the others' actions.

On things that improve your Cha check: I already have a pretty good list of those in the Guide to the Diabolist. Not sure if I want to repeat them or not... this thing could end up being crazy long.

Which creatures to summon: yes, I'm also working on a list of these as an Appendix (or appendices). I may post them here. These will be pretty large documents, though -- there are a lot of outsiders.

-- They don't provoke. Why would they? Anyway, they have reach.

-- Well, you made all your saves, so you take a grand total of 5 hp of damage. I'll roll for the Blur: 1d100 ⇒ 95

Make that total 6 on 4d8. Pft. And, once again, no damage gets through the Deathless.

Ulp, you need to roll either three or four DC 23 Fort saves, depending on what your touch AC is. (If it's lower than 33, they hit.) Also, note that they're surrounding you, and they have reach, so you're potentially vulnerable to up to three AoOs.

Meanwhile: Jax, are you still flying? Would you able to reach these guys? If yes, then your attack went off as rolled above. If not, let me know., your Deathless armor gives complete protection, and I've now managed to roll a total of 4 on 3d8.

And the one that maybe hit, depending on what your touch AC is: 3d6 ⇒ (1, 3, 4) = 8 damage and 1d8 ⇒ 2 of drain.

The one that hit for sure: 3d6 ⇒ (2, 4, 2) = 8 negative energy damage and 1d8 ⇒ 2 Con drain, DC 23 Fort save to avoid., was that some incredibly bad rolling on my part. Yuck.

Well, the other two spirits are going to float up and join the attack. 1d20 ⇒ 10 1d20 ⇒ 17

One hits for sure. The other... Ulp, what is your touch AC? It's hard to tell.

Okay, then -- Ulp, you take 6d6 ⇒ (2, 1, 1, 5, 2, 4) = 15 of negative energy damage -- your Deathless armor will absorb the first 10 points of that.

You also suffer 2d8 ⇒ (1, 1) = 2 of Con drain. You can avoid the Con drain by making two DC 23 Fort saves, one for each die of damage.


Okay, let's roll to confirm that. 1d20 ⇒ 17

Okay, so the first spirit floats up to where Ulp is hovering and reaches out one spectral claw.

1d20 ⇒ 20

Ulp, Zoren, Dren, Edmin, Three Spirits, Judge, Jax

Okay, so it's the turn of the Three Spirits. The Judge being untouchable, they have five possible targets. Dren and Zoren are casting defensive spells, so that leaves Edmin, Jax and Ulp. Since Jax hasn't attacked yet, I'd say it's a bit less likely they'd go after him, so let's say 1-4 Edmin, 5-8 Ulp, 9-10 Jax. 1d10 ⇒ 5.

I'll bot Dren tomorrow if we don't hear anything.


Is there interest in this? Too much detail? (Does anyone actually use this spell? Are others running it differently?)

Doug M.

Hello all,

I'm looking for gamers in Franconia (northern Bavaria) -- the region of Bad Neustadt, Fulda, Schweinfurt, Bad Kissingen, Bad Bruckenau. This is an area of small towns with no big cities, but I'm hoping there are at least some other gamers out there... anyone?

Doug M.

Okay then, no splash on the others -- they're 10' apart.

Edmin's attack does the full 35 damage on 1d3 ⇒ 3 Chuck.

Waiting on Dren.

OneTrueBaldo wrote:

Hmmh the Master Conjurer class attribute of the diabolist says "At 10th level, when a diabolist calls a devil whose name she knows, she may cast the calling spell as a standard action and bargain with it as a move action. She adds half her Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate modifier on the bargaining Charisma check (if any)", I like your "binding happens immediately" interpretation, but maybe it's NOT universal.

I think that actually supports my approach; the Master Conjuror thing is unique and special, after all. Also, it has to be written in such a way that it covers Planar Ally and Planar Binding both.


You know, even your "immediate binding" interpretation can be affected by player abuse. In my opinion, anything permitting double-roll of the Cha checks -the Prescience power of the Foresight subschool, for example- REMOVES any danger inherent in the casting of the Planar Bindings spells. Therefore, the DM must improvise every time the player casts these spells, and maybe needs to forbid re-rolls of the binding CHA checks too.

You raise an interesting point. If you can double-roll, can you ignore the natural 1? I'd say no, myself -- that 5% failure chance should be hardwired in under all circumstances.

Doug M.

158 damage / 2 = 79, and we can assume he's Dazzled.

What's the range on splash? Is it only immediately adjacent (5')?

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Ah, found it.

* * * * *

The Sisters Market; or, making the Succubus more trouble

What makes the succubus different? No, no, besides the obvious.

I'd say it's this: succubi are, by their vary nature, social creatures. Other demons are solitary top predators, or slithering connivers, or rampaging monsters of pure destruction. But succubi need a social context to work.

So: succubi have a network. You could almost say an organization. Oh, it's a very chaotic organization, full of lies, jealousy, plots and treachery. Succubi don't actually *like* each other. But they have a lot in common, and as noted above they're social creatures, and also they can find mutual profit in working together.

How? Why, through the Sisters Market.

The Market is an informal network of succubi. It reaches all across the Abyss, and well beyond. Think of it as a Craigslist for demons. Though the current incarnation of the Market is fairly recent, something like it has existed for millenia. Because demons are demons, the network regularly gets crashed by cheating and abuse; but because it's so damn useful, it keeps getting recreated.

Succubi trade some physical stuff -- magic items and the like, and of course dominated slaves -- but mostly they trade information, roles, and hooks. Roles are identities that they've taken over. A "hook" is a Suggestion or Domination that a succubus has placed on a victim. (Yeah, it turns out that these things can be traded between two willing demons.)

So, say Candi has infiltrated a small mortal kingdom, dominating the queen and planting suggestions in the King's mind, and is driving the kingdom towards war and utter ruin. But suddenly she has to to away. Maybe she has a better job offer somewhere else; maybe she's suddenly become bored (this is the eighth kingdom she's ruined, frankly she'd like to try something different now); maybe she just got the news that the Shining Crusade is about to come to town and the palace will be crawling with good clerics and paladins. Whatever the reason, she contacts the Sisters Market and offers her role and her hooks -- the suggestions on the King, the domination on the Queen -- for sale. Tanya, who's been hanging around the Abyss torturing the same damned souls over and over, jumps at the chance; she offers an interesting magic item and, oh, the true name of a minor devil. An agreement is reached and, boom.

(Context: my PCs recently defeated a succubus; she got a Suggestion into one of them but then flew off because they were obviously too powerful. She's now traded the suggestion-hook to a more powerful demoness, who has just joined the party undercover.)

The Sisters Market also trades information. Much as they dislike each other, succubi tend to be gossips, and they love nothing better than a good, juicy secret. And they trade tactical information: I serve this demon lord, but I've noticed a weakness in his defenses. I'll trade it for information about the powerful good party that's rumored to be preparing an expedition to my plane of the Abyss. From a PC's point of view, this means that once you've encountered a single succubus, any subsequent one you meet may suddenly know much, much more about you. (This is especially true for characters who have embarked on a career of fiend-hunting, demon-binding, or anything else that seems likely to bring them into conflict with the sisters more than once. Demons are chaotic, but intelligent; they're not going to sit in rooms waiting for you to show up and kill them.)

The Sisters Market isn't only for succubi. Other fiends, and even high-level characters, can occasionally try buying or selling something. Just making contact would be a minor challenge in and of itself, and then of course you're dealing with a bunch of millenia-old chaotic evil outsiders with high Wis, very high Int, and very high Cha indeed. Good luck negotiating with the gal who can read thoughts, cast suggestions all day long, and -- oh, you have Protection From Evil up? -- talk rings around you anyway, because she has +27 Bluff.

Anyway, the Sisters Market. Thoughts?

Doug M.

Succubus + sorceror levels is seriously terrifying once you're able to cast 4th level spells and up, because her save DCs are going to be crazy high. Succubus + antipaladin is pretty whack, too.

However, I think you can have a lot of fun in other ways, too. Let me dig up my old post about the Sisters Market...

Doug M.

Ulp, does confirming a crit just give you one additional die of damage, or was that a typo?

Whoops, I see that Weird Words max out at 10. So even though your bards are 11th level, they can only throw ten/round. That's a mere 40d8 + 200 damage. Ah well.

Noodling around, I see that you can cross Sound Striker with two other handy archetypes -- Daredevil and Dirge Bard.

So how about this: two of the guys are Sound Striker / Daredevils. They use acrobatics (+5!) and mobility to move fast around the battlefield. Consider giving them Snake Style, which lets them dodge one attack. That works well with their nifty Scoundrel's Fortune power. They're skinny little guys who wear red.

Two others are Sound Striker / Dirge Bards; they can either do the Weird Words, or blast a wave of Intimidates across the battlefield. Note that Haunting Refrain is not a sonic or sound-based attack, so silence and whatnot won't help... basically it's an Intimidate check, except at +5. They're tall, emaciated looking guys who wear black.

The fifth guy, the boss, is a straight bard. Maybe give him a level or two of monk if you want to be amusing... won't have much effect except to crank up his saves, really. In the buff rounds, he opens with inspiring courage and inspiring competence while the other bards caste Haste or whatever. So when the daredevils are doing acrobatics to avoid AoOs, or Sense Motives to Snake Style their way out from an attack, or the dirge bards are blasting with Intimidate, they get +4 on their skill checks. The boss is a stocky older guy; he wears white and blue.

Possibly this is overthinking it... honestly, the simplest way to run this combat is to just have everyone blast away with Weird Words, concentrating fire on one PC after another until they fall. Still, you can keep them guessing for a bit.

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

How are you getting SA damage, here? Anyway, the crit confirms, so your total is 92 + 64 = 156 damage, or 167 if you get the SA. (That's on spirit Albert. Spirits Billy Bob and Chuck are still untouched.)

Ah, wait, Jax is going last. So he does get the SA damage.

Note that damage is halved -- intangible! So, 167/2 = 83.

Could I suggest playing some Tibetan throat chanting in the background while this is running? Noodle around on youtube and you can find whole albums running for up to 90 minutes at a time.

Meanwhile: The bards should cooperate! Soundstrike and Weird Words are feeble-ish one at a time, but they can be used to pile on damage. If you have four 11th level bards doing Weird Words at once, and each bard is rocking a 20 Cha, that's up to 44d8 + 220 damage. To be fair, they all have to close within 30', and then you have to roll 44 ranged touch attacks, and then the target gets a Fort save for half damage. Get ready to roll lots of dice! But even if they miss a quarter of their attacks, and the target saves half the time, that's still going to be about 240 damage per round. Pour that on a single target and watch him go down hard. And note that it's bludgeoning, slashing or piercing damage, not sonic -- so even if the PCs have somehow developed some protection against sound attacks ("ooh, bards, we'll put wax in our ears and precast Silence!") it won't help.

If they have Inspire Courage running (which they're bards, why wouldn't they) then they get +3 to all their hit rolls. An interesting question is whether they'd also get +3 damage on all 44 of those d8 attack rolls. I'd say no -- the description of Inspire Courage says it only applies to weapons, and I don't think these quite qualify. Perhaps that's for the best, really.

Doug M.

I hope you're keeping track of all these Shocking Grasp spells! (Yes, I know you get a ridiculous number of them.)

How are you getting SA damage, here? Anyway, the crit confirms, so your total is 92 + 64 = 156 damage, or 167 if you get the SA. (That's on spirit Albert. Spirits Billy Bob and Chuck are still untouched.)

OneTrueBaldo wrote:

@Douglas Muir 406

I LOVE your work,

Thanks! Looking forward to any comments you might have on that one.

The Stars are Right, the Heavens amulet would be useful to many (most?) diabolists, I suppose.

Nice one! Anyone with a decent Wis modifier would find it worthwhile to install a skylight. For a diabolist cleric, this would be a must-have.


The Wages of Sin, this book is quite appropriate to a diabolist with the Object of Legend feat!

? That first link goes to the entry for the Chronicle of the Righteous? Useful in its way, but the whole "move your alignment one step towards Good" thing might not work out so well...

Doug M.

1d20 ⇒ 9 1d20 ⇒ 19

Initiative order is Ulp, Zoren, Dren, Edmin, Three Spirits, Judge, Jax. I'll say the Judge's attack was an AoO -- it does not connect. The Judge's Bardic Performance won't help anyone but Jax, unless you decide to delay action to after his initiative.

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I love this spell.

Yes, it's a hangover from first edition, when Things Were Different -- you wandered from room to room, and some rooms had 10,000 gp guarded by two kobolds while the next room had a Gygaxian insta-death trap or an ancient red dragon. People forget, but the whole concept of "level appropriate encounter" simply did not exist in 1e. It was expected that you would have to run like hell sometimes, and still PCs died a lot more often. (But then, it only took about two minutes to roll up a new one.)

But it can still be used to great effect even today. IMCs, I haven't found Weal / Woe to be a problem. Thoughtful players will pretty quickly figure out what sorts of situations are good for asking. "Should we pull this lever?" is a classic example, but there are many more.

Oh, and it's also a great way to explain unlikely coincidences. Enemy NPC party shows up at just the wrong time to snatch victory from the PCs? "Yes well, Donna here cast the bones and divined that we should climb up the mountain instead of following you directly. Oh, you don't have a diviner of your own? Tsk."

Doug M.

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It looks like this is finally coming together. Originally this was part of DMDM's Guide to the Diabolist, but it fissioned off into its own separate document. There will probably end up being a lot of redundancy between the two... I'm still working on that.

But anyway, here's the first part of the current draft. Comments, criticisms, brickbats, questions and feedback of all sorts, please... the last Guide was hugely improved by your input, so I'm hoping this one will be too.

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

* * * *

Why this Guide? Three reasons:

Why write a guide to the three Planar Binding spells? Three reasons.

First, these spells are powerful. As in, potentially game-changing powerful. There's no limit to the number of creatures you can call with them, so you can potentially have a dozen or more outsiders hanging around at any given time, acting as scouts, bodyguards, and muscle.

Second, these spells are iconic. The wizard calling a powerful, dangerous creature from Beyond into a magical circle and trying to compel it to service... that's an image that's hundreds of years old, and the concept has been part of D&D from the very beginning.

And third, these spells are vaguely written. That's not really Paizo's fault -- they're legacies from earlier editions. But there are a lot of fuzzy areas and things that are simply not explained. In this Guide, I'll point out some of the vague bits and do my best to come up with reasonable interpretations. Hopefully people will find this useful, or at least amusing.

The Planar Binding spells bring outsiders to the material plane to serve you. The outsiders are not volunteers and are generally not happy about this. As a practical matter, Planar Binding is almost always cast together with two other spells: Magic Circle (against Good, Evil, or whatever) and Dimensional Anchor. In theory you could cast Planar Binding alone, but that would be dangerous and foolish. This Guide assumes you’re always casting the three together.

Once you’ve caught the outsider, you can then engage in a contest of wills (simulated by an opposed Charisma check) to force it to serve you for a period of time up to 1 day/level. Once you win, it has to serve.

There are a LOT of details -- see below -- but that's basically it.

Part i: Who You Gonna Call?:

Before anything else, you want to pick which outsider you're going to target. If you've managed to get the true name of some outsider, great! That gives your target -5 on its Will save to resist binding, -5 on its Cha check to resist binding, and (at the DM's discretion) possibly other advantages as well. Otherwise, you ask for a general type ("a Barbed Devil", "a Zelekhut Inevitable", etc.) and you get a typical representative of that type. In game terms, a nice high Knowledge (Planes) is useful for determining the powers and weaknesses of whatever you're calling. In metagame terms, you the player should be familiar with the relative entries in the Bestiary.

Alignment and Planar Binding

This is a complex topic. Conjuring an outsider with a particular alignment causes the PB spell to take on that alignment: calling a devil makes it a spell with the Lawful and Evil descriptors, calling an archon makes it Lawful and Good, and so forth. This means that calling an outsider of an alignment opposite to your own is a morally fraught action. Clever players may of course look for workarounds – “I’m calling this devil to help us fight the Whispering Tyrant, thus serving the greater good!” “I’m calling this angel in order to murder it and take its stuff, hahaha!” But a DM would be justified in prohibiting characters – especially lawful ones – from bending the rules in this manner.

There’s also the interesting question of what happens when a good-aligned caster conjures a good outsider. After all, Planar Binding is ultimately a spell of compulsion – the creature is forced to obey you, whether it likes it or not. Should a Lawful Good character be interfering with Heaven’s will like this? Should a Chaotic Good character be compelling intelligent creatures into what’s effectively slavery?

Well, arguing alignment is a mug’s game, and the rules do allow good characters to use this spell just the same as everyone else. And you could argue that Chaotic Good characters could plausibly call LG outsiders without feeling too bad about it (those guys need to be yanked out of their comfort zone!) while Lawful Good characters could call CG ones (they need to stop hanging around singing songs and having fun, and get on with the serious work of smashing evil). That said, when the archon frowns sternly from out of the circle, or the azata’s beautiful eyes are filled more with sorrow than with anger, a good-aligned character really ought to have a very compelling reason – more compelling than “we’re going through the fifth level of Emerald Spire tonight, and I think we need more firepower” – for forcing them into service.

Part 2: Drawing your diagram, and other preparations:

The Diagram. Unless you're summoning something really small and weak, you always start by casting Magic Circle and then drawing a trapping diagram. (See the Magic Circle spell description for details.) The diagram has four effects: it allows you to precast Dimensional Anchor on your calling circle, thus preventing the outsider from teleporting away; it gives the target -5 on a Cha check to escape (not on its opposed Cha check against you -- that's different); it prevents it from using its Spell Resistance to escape; and the creature cannot use any of its SLAs or other powers across the line of the diagram. All those things are very good! So always do this and do it right.

It's a DC 20 Spellcraft check to draw a trapping diagram. The DM rolls the check in secret, so you don't know if you've succeeded. So you want to either take 20 (which moves the time required from 10 minutes to 20x10 minutes, or three hours and 20 minutes) or make sure you have at least +19 on Spellcraft. This is not actually too hard -- with buffs, Aid Another, an assist from the party bard, etc., you should be able to swing it by 10th level or so. (Remember, a 1 is not an autofail on skill checks.)

The Room. Note that it's RAW that the tiniest disturbance will break the circle -- a leaf falling on it, a beetle scampering across it, anything. So if you're casting Planar Bindings regularly, you want to invest in a house or tower, ideally not in the middle of a city, that contains a nice clean room with soundproof stone walls, a lockable door and no windows. The room should be large enough to contain yourself, an assistant or two, plus the biggest creature you can call -- probably a Huge creature, so say at least 20' x 30'. You might additionally consider a set of sturdy bars with a lockable gate around the circle. This won't stop creatures that can teleport, but if things go wrong they'll have to burn a standard action to get at you. Finally, if you're that sort of caster, you'll want an area for sacrifices and offerings -- see below.

If you're calling something "on the fly" -- say because you're halfway through a dungeon and you really need more firepower -- then at least get someplace quiet and have the rest of the party do their best to secure the area. Otherwise, having a rat scamper across your magic circle at exactly the wrong moment is just the kind of jerk move that some DMs will find irresistible.

Other preparation. Casting alone is a bad idea, especially if you’re calling something powerful. In a perfect world, you should have the rest of the party standing by for buffs and general support. Failing that, have a cohort or an apprentice or some acolytes close at hand. Make sure you have the right spells memorized, and have scrolls and other useful items ready and at hand. Don't forget to have defenses in place against whatever special abilities the creature may possess. Have Plans B and C (see below) prepped and ready.

An interesting question is, if you do a lot of calling and binding, can you use bound outsiders as backup when calling? (Well, to be precise, obviously you /can/. The question is whether you ever /should/.) On the plus side, if you've already called and bound four Ice Devils, having them standing around could be a good way to make sure that #5 doesn't cause trouble -- even if it breaks loose, it promptly gets dogpiled. On the other hand, this is exactly the sort of situation where clever fiends (i.e., a cunning DM) could interpret your instructions in such a way as to get you in some serious hurt. I think it's asking for trouble, myself, but YMMV.

Part 3: The Call:

Calling a creature. This is pretty straightforward: you call the creature and it gets a straight-up Will save to resist. If it makes the save, your calling fails, the creature stays on its home plane and the Binding spell is wasted. Of course, there is nothing to prevent you from casting the spell again. So failing to call something, while disappointing, is usually no more than an inconvenience. An open question is whether you have to redraw your diagram if the creature makes its Will save and doesn't show up. The RAW is not clear on this point. I'd say no, but check with your DM.
As noted above, if you have a creature's true name, it gets -5 on its Will save to resist being called. Normally Planar Binding brings you a random creature of the sort you asked, but the true name means you can keep calling the same one over and over again. And if you're that sort of caster, you can also punish it for its insolent resistance.

Slipping through the net. A called creature can immediately try to escape one of three ways: by teleporting away, by forcing you to make an SR check, or by winning a special Charisma check whose DC is DC 15 + 1/2 your caster level + your Charisma modifier. (This is NOT the opposed Charisma check for binding. That's different.) A correctly drawn calling diagram makes the first two of these impossible and the last one much more difficult (-5 on its check). However, if it does succeed, it's loose! Skip ahead to Part 4. The called creature gets to make another attempt to escape the circle every 24 hours, so hurry up and get it bound before it makes a successful one.

Part 4: The Binding:

In order to bind a creature to your will, you must win an opposed Cha check against it. That sounds simple enough, but of course there are wrinkles.

When and how does binding happen? The RAW does not make clear exactly, so I think a reasonable interpretation is that it happens immediately, on the round after the creature arrives. Not only would this seem to make sense – if it’s not immediate, then when? – but it also fits the Rule of Cool… the creature appears, and you’re instantly locked in a struggle for dominance.

An alternate interpretation would be that the struggle begins only when one of you chooses. This allows time for discussion, negotiation, and threats… but it also means that you could spend several rounds buffing yourself and/or trying to debuff the creature. I think this interpretation tips things too much in the summoner’s favor, myself, but check with your DM.

Either way, at some point you attempt the binding. If you win, great -- the creature is now bound to your service. If you fail, the creature is not bound, but it's still stuck inside the circle. You can make another check in 24 hours, and you can continue trying every day for days/your level. However, the creature also gets an escape check (see above) every day. So you want to get it bound ASAP. If you're high enough level, you can use the 8th level spell Moment of Prescience to add your level to this roll, which should make victory pretty much certain.

There's a really important caveat: if you fail your contested check with a natural 1, the creature immediately breaks free of the circle. There is no way around this -- no matter what you do, this spell has an irreducible 5% failure rate. Sooner or later, this is going to happen. When it does, skip ahead to Part 4.

What modifiers apply? Depending on the circumstances, you can get a bonus on your Cha check ranging from +0 to +6. The RAW doesn't give details, except that certain creatures will accept offerings that give you a +2. These offerings range from trivial (for a lemure, some pornography) (yes, really) to "you must be kidding" (for a marilith, the severed hands of six generals who are still alive and commanding troops) (yes, really). Personally, I'd say that you either get the +2 or not depending on whether you do the offering, and then you can get another +1 to +4 depending on things like how well the task aligns with the creature's alignment, temperament, and goals; whether you offer any attractive bribes; whether you make convincing threats; and whether you have a reputation that precedes you. My take is that bonuses should not be easy to come by, especially for more powerful creatures, but discuss this with your DM.

Buffing yourself. It makes perfectly good sense to buff yourself! However, if we accept that the binding happens immediately after the calling spell is complete, that means you have no time to buff between completing the calling and making the binding check. This means you have two options. First, you can get someone else -- apprentice, cohort, other party member -- to buff you while you are casting the spell. (Make sure your DM is good with this first! Some DMs might rule that the casting of Planar Binding requires such absolute focus that having another caster throwing spells could break your concentration.) Second, before you start your Planar Binding, you can cast buffs that last more than ten minutes. Note that a number of useful buffs, including the attribute boosters like Eagle's Splendor and Owl's Wisdom, have a minutes/level duration. So they'll be available from 11th level and up, or earlier if you have access to Extend Spell. And, of course, you can always prebuff yourself for later checks on subsequent days, if it comes to that -- "You defied me once, creature, but now I will break you!"

If you don't accept the "immediate binding" interpretation, then you can spend an hour buffing before you enter into a contest of wills with your captive. Personally, I think this is kinda cheesy and I wouldn't allow it, or at least not on the first check. After all, one way is "The creature appears, and you're instantly locked in a deadly contest of wills for dominance!" The other is "Just wait a few minutes while I powder my nose..." YMMV, but I know which I'd prefer to play.

Debuffing your target. A much-discussed question is whether you can cast debuffs on the target creature in order to make it more amenable to your demands. If you accept the "binding happens/fails as soon as the creature appears" rule, you can't cast debuffs for that first check unless you have some sort of area debuff up and running in advance. However, if you fail that first check, can you cast debuffs on the creature for the second check, 24 hours later? Well, there's no question that you can cast one spell -- Agonize, which is specifically designed for the purpose of convincing unruly outsiders to cooperate. Otherwise, though, can you cast Enervation? Dominate? A question to James Jacobs provided the following answer: "You can cast any spell you want at the outsider in the circle, but those that create physical effects that cross the circle would let the monster out. What entails 'breaking the circle' is left to the GM, but you could certainly argue that the beam of black energy from a ray like enervation counts, or even the faint mist produced by mind fog."

FWIW, here's my interpretation: spells that involve energy, that do damage, or that create any sort of physical area affect will break the circle. Spells that produce purely mental effects (like Dominate) or that produce effects on the target without a ray or any other connection to the target (like Baleful Polymorph) will not break the circle. If you're planning to go this route, try to get a ruling from your DM first.

Duration. The maximum duration is one day/level. If you require a service that can be completed in less time, then the creature departs once the service is done. If it hasn't broken loose from your control, it automatically "bamfs" back to its home plane. If it has broken loose, it can hang around on the Material Plane for as long as it likes.

The Binding spell allows you to keep an outsider around for longer, but not in a way that's directly useful. That said, I would rule that having an outsider bound into a paperweight or something would constitute a plausible threat against outsiders of the same type, granting you +1 on your opposed Cha check -- "Do you want to end up like Smithers, here?"

The Creature's Attitude. The RAW is silent on this, but it's pretty clearly implied that most creatures will arrive Hostile. Makes sense, right? There it was, doing its evil business in the pits of Hell or enjoying its adoration of the ineffable wonderment of Heaven, and then suddenly -- YOINK -- it's jammed into a nasty little circle in some mortal wizard's back room. You'd be ticked, too. Some unusual creatures may be merely Unfriendly or even Neutral, but it seems reasonable to assume that Hostile is the default.

Never forget that while the Binding forces the creature to serve, it doesn't mind-control it or change its attitude towards you. It'll probably come out of the circle hating you and wanting to kill you (or, if you’re both good-aligned, being very, very disappointed) and it will probably continue in that vein unless something changes. You may be able to change its attitude using Diplomacy or other methods, but I'd say that would be quite difficult (+5 or more to the DC of the checks). After all, you're basically enslaving the creature, and it's going to be hard to gloss that over. Also, note that even if you somehow improve its attitude all the way to Friendly, an intelligent outsider is still going to have its own agenda.

What can you demand? This is a critical question, and one that the RAW is maddeningly vague on. It says that you can ask for "one service", and also that "Impossible demands or unreasonable commands are never agreed to". If you assign some open-ended task that the creature cannot complete through its own actions, the spell remains in effect for a maximum of 1 day per caster level, and the creature gains an immediate chance to break free (presumably, a new opposed Cha check).

So, where does "Be my bodyguard for one week" fit in? What about "Obey my every command for one week"? Personally I would allow these, under a liberal definition of "service". Otherwise, Planar Binding gets nerfed down into a niche spell, useful only when there's a single, clearly limited task. I don't think that's the designers' intent -- and also, it's much less cool and interesting. Rather, I would seek to balance this by having bound outsiders seek to creatively pervert your instructions whenever possible. This is more challenging for both DM and player, but also more interesting and fun. Make sure you know what your DM's view is on this point before you start building towards a Planar Binding specialist.

Next installment: You and our bound outsider, When Things Go Wrong, cheesy tricks, and aftereffects and consequences.

Edmin hit too, for what that's worth. (Sorry, Edmin. But you're not generally going to do 300 points of damage unless you're smiting an angel or something.) (Which you will totally get a chance to do sometime!)

Anyway: if the Lady's fuss has done anything, it has attracted the attention of the three spectral warriors. Abandoning their fruitless assault on the Judge, they're now moving out into the corridor.




Okay, well: at Dren's touch the lady literally explodes, popped like a bubble of high-pressure ectoplasm. There's a flash and a shriek and, poof, she's gone.

I'll roll for confirmation, then. Note that the ladies have a respectable AC 26 against touch attacks. 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (16) + 11 = 27

I think that settles it -- you can crit. Go for it.

Judge Tohram Quasangi wrote:
Dren - do you get double damage if you confirm the crit?

That's a good question. I don't think so, but I'm not completely sure.

After several rounds of this, the dead spirits begin to emit faint, distant shrieks of frustration.

At this, one of the ladies pops out of the stone wall behind you and begins to wail. (I told you they hadn't given up.) Ulp and the Judge are distracted in the room ahead, so that means only Jax, Edmin, Dren and Zoren can reach her.

We'll eschew initiative, and you can simply tell me what (if anything) you're doing. Gentlemen?

Note that summoning and buffing don't break invisibility.

Consider summoning a flying creature with good stealth and perception to pre-scout. If memory serves, there are a couple of decent ones in the SM II and III lists.

If you're playing this character intelligently, she should try to pick off individual PCs. If she's an experienced fighter, she'll probably have a list of preferred targets -- like, KILL OR NEUTRALIZE THE BARD FIRST, then the party healer, then everyone else.

Doug M.

By the way, if you are starting at 1st level you may want to look at DMDM's Guide to the Diabolist. It's about building the Diabolist PrC, but it has lots of information that will be useful for anyone building a planar binder type character -- i.e., traits, feats, spells, useful magic items, etc. etc.

Doug M.

Dukeh555 wrote:
And what's this about 10th level?! I get lesser planar binding at fourth level as a summoner and we're starting the campaign at 1st level.

Go and look at the summoner's spell progression. Wizards are "full casters", meaning they get access to new spells every second level -- first level spells at first level, second level spells at third level, third level spells at fifth level, and so forth. Therefore, they get fifth level spells at ninth level.

Summoners are "partial casters", meaning they get access to new spells every THIRD level. That's fair, because they have eidolons and lots of other cool powers. So they get second level spells at fourth level, third level spells at seventh level, and fourth level spells at 10th level.

Doug M.

Dukeh555 wrote:
Ah, I get it. We assumed that you had to win the will save, the charisma check, and then additionally pay them with little things to get them to serve you.

Nope. You can throw in "little things" -- like the dove's hearts -- to give yourself a bonus on the Cha check. But they're not required.

What are the spells limitations? Can they act freely unless you firmly command them against taking action? I don't want to come into town, and, a week later, get lynched because my imp murdered all the family pets. Do I have to command them to not do these things, or is it implied? If I need to command them to avoid doing such things then I prefer to keep them content, so they will not constantly be searching for holes in my binding.

Yes, that's another issue with the spell. A creature conjured by a Planar Ally spell will keep its own personality and motivations and goals. And it will act in a manner consistent with those goals, unless you specifically bind or instruct it not to.

So, for instance, a succubus may use her Suggestion on your fellow party members. A shadow demon may possess an NPC. Devils will want to tempt people to wickedness. Daemons will want to hurt and kill people; demons will want to ruin and destroy randomly. Fire elementals will want to burn stuff, angels will want to help, heal and rescue, inevitables will seek to enforce Law, and so forth. That's their nature. You can prevent them from doing these things by clear instructions and/or careful wording of the binding. But they will still *want* to.

And, of course, the creature may well resent being bound, and may connive at your downfall and destruction. Note that called creatures get to use their SLAs and skills! So, a conjured devil can use Bluff to lie to you, Sense Motive to figure out what you really want; a succubus can read your mind; and so forth. Intelligent creatures are perfectly capable of pretending to be fine with the situation while quietly plotting something truly horrible for you down the line. They MUST obey the terms of the binding -- but within those terms, they will continue to follow their evil natures.

One way to think of this is as something like a hierarchy of motivations. Do you remember Asimov's Laws of Robotics? It works like that, more or less.

I. A bound creature will act to preserve its own life and will not act in contradiction to its alignment.

II. A bound creature will obey the terms of its binding, except where this directly conflicts with Rule I.

III. A bound creature will seek to carry out its own agenda, except where this directly conflicts with Rules I or II.

Does this make sense?

Doug M.

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