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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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
Defense & Offense:
AC 24, touch 17, flat-footed 20 (+4 armor, +3 deflection, +3 Dex, +1 dodge, +3 natural)
Speed 30 ft.
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 11th; concentration +18)
6th -- cloak of dreams (DC 23), mass suggestion (DC 23), unwilling shield (DC 22)
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
-- 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?
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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...
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.
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!
So here is the semi-offical word from James Jacobs on PrCs, from about half an hour ago. I wrote to ask the following:
And James replied as follows:
So there you have it.
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.)
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.
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.
Blake's Tiger wrote:
Wow, so none for almost two years.
So it looks like they really are giving up PrCs. Dang.
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?
If you're really going this route, then take a moment to google "DMDM's Guide to the Diabolist" (not exactly your thing, but may have some interesting bits) and "DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding".
Halfling Mesmerist 1/Witch 4
1: Malicious Eye (lets him add Halfling Jinx to the Evil Eye Hex. Hex now gives -3 to all saves)
Evil Eye as a standard action + Hypnotic Stare as a swift action = target is at -7 Will and -3 to the other two. IIUC, none of these debuffs are subject to saves or SR... the halfling just scrunches up one eye for a few seconds and, bam, your Will goes all wobbly sideways.
As noted on the label, a one-trick pony... but if you pair him with a an enchanter, or anyone who specializes in save-or-sucks that target Will, there are some amusing possibilities.
Eh, if you prefer secret signs you can swap it out when you use the character.
If we're going that route, the best feat is probably Cunning Caster. It gets overlooked, I think, because most PCs can't deal with the stacking Bluff penalties -- but it really wouldn't be a problem for Emily.
Hangman's Noose, by Nick Logue.
Hook Mountain Massacre can also be run very well as horror, though it's more on the gross-out/black humor side.
That said, like WotW it had just as many editing issues and errors. They both could have used a second set of eyes before release.
I was the second set of eyes for the last three volumes of WotW. However, not all my suggestions were accepted (though some were).
One problem was that I got drafts as .pdfs, not as Word documents -- so I couldn't do comments or track changes; I had to do all edits as a separate Word document ("Page 18, line 7, form/from again").
Note that she can still use her respectable +7 Stealth to go unnoticed (subject to the usual caveats about hiding in plain sight, etc.), and then cast.
But for Still Spell i see no real advantage. Normally you dont get grappeled so often, or need to cast while wearing a Fullplate.
Emily is a spy, so she worries about being captured. Being able to cast while bound or in chains is worth a feat in her mind.
I might be misinformed, but last I heard there was a ruling that even with no components, and with Still and Silent metamagics, enemies still get a spellcraft check to identify what spell you're casting?
I believe you are correct -- even a Still Silent spell can still be identified with Spellcraft. Note, though, that (1) pretty much nobody uses Spellcraft except arcane casters, so she just has to keep an eye out for those, and (2) the Bloodline Arcana for the Rakshasa Bloodline: Add half your sorcerer level to the Spellcraft DC for others to identify spells you cast. So, anyone trying to spot Emily's spellcasting is effectively at -3 on the roll.
Also, her high Bluff skill can sometimes cover for spellcasting. (Really, under RAW, a sufficiently high Bluff is like a reality-warping field.) So, e.g., target: "Did you just try Charm me?" Emily: [Outlandish lie at +14] Target: "Oh... okay."
I really REALLY like this character, amazing work!
Well, thanks! Feel free to hit the "+" button up there -- that's what it's for. Doesn't have any effect, but it shows that someone liked it...
Creating a disguise requires 1d3 × 10 minutes of work.Maybe it's possible, but it's going to take 3-10 hours to take 20 on a disguise check (I think that's balanced to be honest, so I'd allow it)
I would too -- but I do see this character as usually inhabiting a role, rather than a disguise as such. She shows up with forged papers and some really convincing lies that establish her as an excellent bookkeeper or a nanny with flawless references. Soon everyone trusts her! The disguise is secondary... though if she needs it, yeah, she spends a day taking 20. I would interpret this as shopping for the perfect outfit, researching just what sort of shoelaces Imperial bookkeepers typically wear, getting a copy made of their "busy bee" badge, practicing their trademark distracted air and slightly pigeon-toed walk, and like that.
As noted, there's a 10th level version. Dipping a couple of levels of rogue takes the character in some interesting directions.