|Douglas Muir 406|
My "Guide to Planar Binding" might be splitting off a shorter "Guide to Planar Ally". These are some preliminary first thoughts on that.
These are spells that let you call a friendly outsider, of your own alignment, to come and help you. They're strictly cleric/oracle spells, though in theory an inquisitor could get access to them through a domain. They take 10 minutes to cast, plus at least one round of negotiation with the conjured creature. Once the outsider arrives, you have to pay -- often quite a large sum of money -- for its services.
These are very different from the Planar Binding spells. Those are arcane spells, which force an outsider to serve you. In Planar Binding, the outsider is probably aggrieved and hostile, and may well plot revenge against you! On the other hand, its services are free. With Planar Ally spells, the outsider is not hostile, it's a fellow servant of your god, and serves you more or less cheerfully... but you're paying through the nose for the privilege. This guide will help you get your money's worth.
When you cast this spell, you get a creature of the deity's (i.e., the DM's) choice. You can specify the number of HD that the creature has, and it will have the right alignment to be a servant of that deity. Beyond that, you have no control. You can certainly *ask* for a particular creature or creatures -- the spell specifically says that -- and if you've been a loyal servant that should count in your favor. But it's a request, not a command. Your deity will send you what s/he thinks is appropriate. You could ask for a 12 HD couatl and get a 12 HD celestial werebear paladin instead.
Now, whatever shows up should be a creature that can help you... and if your DM is creative, it might be a creature that can help you in some surprising or unexpected way. For instance, you might ask for a 6 HD hound archon to help you explore a dungeon. But the DM knows the dungeon is partly flooded with deep cold water... so your deity sends you a 6 HD celestial advanced giant otter instead. This would be completely legitimate, and indeed would be a reasonable way for your deity to reward good behavior.
Caveat #1: This spell conjures up an actual outsider, not a temporary duplicate like Summon Monster. If it dies here on the Prime Material Plane, it's destroyed. So the creature is not likely to obey suicidal or extremely dangerous commands. You can order a summoned monster to jump into the dragon's jaws to distract it for a round or two; a planar ally is just not going to do that.
Caveat #2: The creature will serve you in a manner consistent with its alignment and personality. Evil creatures probably won't betray /you/, but they could easily be dangerous to your fellow party members. Good-aligned creatures will strive to minimize collateral damage; may want to attempt converting or redeeming monsters instead of just killing them; and may demand some higher justification than "it will serve the greater good if we kill these creatures and take their stuff". Chaotic creatures may get distracted, wander off, or creatively misinterpret your instructions if they think they know a better way. Lawful creatures will carry out lawful orders, perhaps a bit too literally, but may hesitate to defy lawful authority. If the creature's flavor text says it is fiercely righteous, or a scheming conniver, or a ravening engine of destruction, it'll want to act that way, and will insofar as it's consistent with your instructions.
Second, you pay the creature for its services. "A task taking up to 1 minute per caster level requires a payment of 100 gp per HD of the creature called. For a task taking up to 1 hour per caster level, the creature requires a payment of 500 gp per HD. A long-term task, one requiring up to 1 day per caster level, requires a payment of 1,000 gp per HD. A nonhazardous task requires only half the indicated payment, while an especially hazardous task might require a greater gift." My personal take on this is that "follow me around and be my bodyguard" would be medium, not especially hazardous unless you're doing something extraordinarily dangerous, but your DM's opinion may vary -- check first.
This payment can be in the form of a sack of gold or gems handed over to the creature; a donation to the appropriate church or charity; or "some other action on your part that matches the creature's alignment and goals." This "action" should cost you at least the equivalent value in cash, and must take place before you get the creature's service: "this payment must be made before the creature agrees to perform any services." Alas, no IOUs! Forging a magic item in advance might work; if you're summoning something evil, having a captive paladin (of high enough level) to feed to it might perhaps count. It's a judgment call, but the DM should not make this easy -- the "some other action" clause shouldn't be an easy way for players to avoid paying the piper.
Now, the nature of power scaling in D&D/PF means that paying a 6 HD creature 6,000 gp to follow you around for a week or two is a horrible deal. A 6 HD creature is just not that powerful, and there are probably better uses for your money. However, paying a 12 HD creature 12,000 gp to work for you for a while is not so bad. And paying an 18 HD creature 18,000 gp is actually really good. So, Lesser Planar Binding is a mostly pretty worthless spell except in some very specific situations; Planar Binding is meh to okay; and Greater Planar Binding can be amazing, especially if your DM is willing to give you a creature that you ask for.
"If the task is strongly aligned with the creature's ethos, it may halve or even waive the payment." Note that (IMO) "be my bodyguard" or "help us clear out the dungeon" is not going to count as 'strongly aligned'. Fighting enemies of an opposing alignment won't do it either, thought it's a good start. It has to be something that's clearly the sort of thing this particular creature would groove on in a big, big way.
Notice that it says "ethos" rather alignment. "Ethos" isn't a formally defined term in PF. Reasonably, it should mean some combination of the creature's alignment, it's particular personality, and the nature of the deity you and it are working for. So, if you're working for a Chaotic Good god whose portfolio includes Liberation, then you might get that discount on a mission to free a bunch of slaves. If you worship a Neutral Evil deity who specializes in spreading diseases, getting a leukodaemon to start a plague around the city should reasonably come cheap. And so forth.
Other than this, there are just a few ways to cut the price. If you're a Diabolist, you get half-price devils, and if you take the Planar Negotiator aasimar racial trait, you can shave another 10% off the cost. (Oddly, this doesn't seem to care whether you're calling up good or evil creatures.) The Agonize spell (3rd level) lets you cut the price by an additional 20% to 60%, but at the cost of deeply antagonizing the creature and making it likely that it will seek revenge. This doesn't seem like a great idea under most circumstances, but it's possible to imagine situations where it might be worthwhile.
If you ask the creature to serve you, and pay the price, it will serve you. It answers to your mutual deity, or some servant thereof, so it will do its best to carry out your instructions. As noted, it won't commit suicide for you, and it won't mindlessly follow your every command. If you consistently order it to do things against its "ethos", or generally treat it badly, it may at some point simply quit. On the other hand, if you work together well, you could ask for the same creature back again.
More to come, but that's a starting point. Thoughts?