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Douglas Muir 406's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. 9,854 posts (9,990 including aliases). 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 alias.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Spell Sage is a really interesting Wizard archetype that has never gotten much attention or love. I'd like to write a guide on it, but I could use some help.

The Spell Sage is an archetype that sacrifices two of the Wizard's best class features -- Arcane Bond and Arcane School -- in return for two completely *different* class features, Focused Spell and Spell Study. Here's the complete description:

Quote:

Focused Spells (Su)

At 1st level, once per day the spell sage's understanding of spells allows him to increase his caster level by 4 for a single spell cast. He can do this twice per day at 8th level, and three times per day at 16th level.

This ability replaces arcane bond.

So, in return for giving up arcane bond, you get the ability to occasionally overclock and cast a spell at +4 ECL. ECL affects a variety of different things, but mostly it's about spell duration; dice of damage on blasts; and spell penetration against spell resistance. For the first, duration is usually pretty minor and not worth blowing your daily Focus. At first level you can cast Mage Armor for five hours, or Vanish or Summon Monster I for five rounds. That's nice, but not really worth the sacrifice of arcane bond. (You could perhaps get some interesting synergies with Extend Spell -- for instance, at 8th level you could burn a second level spell slot and walk around with Mage Armor all day long.)

For the second, though -- ah, now we're talking. 5d4 damage from Burning Hands at 1st level will drop most nonboss opponents. 9d6 damage from Fireball at 5th level is very strong too. And that's before you start piling on more dice with Spell Specialization, Pyromaniac, etc. etc.

As to SR, being able to increase your roll to overcome it is pretty handy at higher levels -- although you can get the same effect by investing in a metamagic rod of Piercing Spell, so it's not *that* great. And finally, let's note that if you can cast Gate, this will give you another four dice of powerful outsider. Again, there are other ways to accomplish this, but it's still nice.

Okay, so Crowdsource Question #1: Besides the obvious ones mentioned above, what are some good spells for leveraging that +4 ECL?

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Spell Study (Su)At 2nd level, the sage's understanding of the spells of bards, clerics, and druids is so great that he can use his own magic in an inefficient, roundabout way to duplicate those classes' spells. Once per day, a spell sage can spontaneously cast any spell on the bard, cleric, or druid spell list as if it were a wizard spell he knew and had prepared. Casting the spell requires the spell sage to spend 1 full round per spell level of the desired spell (if the spell is on multiple spell lists indicated above, using the lowest level from among those lists) and requires expending two prepared spells of that spell level or higher; if the spell's casting time is normally 1 full round or longer, this is added to the spell sage's casting time. For example, if a spell sage wants to use spell study to cast cure light wounds (cleric spell level 1st), he must spend 2 full rounds casting and expend two prepared wizard spells of 1st level or higher.

At 6th level and every 5 levels thereafter, a spell sage can use this ability an additional time per day (to a maximum of four times per day at 16th level).

This ability replaces arcane school.

This is a super interesting ability. It sort of makes the Spell Sage into the anti-sorceror. The sorceror has a limited list of spells, but in combat he can switch among them freely. The Spell Sage has the biggest list of spells in the game -- bigger than the Mystic Theurge -- but the doubled slot cost makes him conservative, and the increased casting time means he can't ever use them in combat. But he's an incredibly flexible tool for everything outside of combat, and sometimes for avoiding combat too. Some examples:

-- The entrance to the fey kingdom is between two gigantic oak trees, but the gateway won't open unless you speak the password phrase. The Spell Sage casts Speak With Plants and asks the oak trees what the pass phrase is.

-- The orcs have thrown you in a dungeon and taken all your stuff. The Spell Sage casts Animal Messenger to use a rat to go for help.

-- The biggest treasure in the dungeon is a statue that's worth several thousand gold pieces. Unfortunately, it weighs 800 lbs. The Spell Sage casts Ant Haul on the party fighter. (Note that Ant Haul is a bard spell *and* a wizard spell -- the Spell Sage gets access to it by the back door, as it were.

-- Area of dense magical darkness ahead, darkvision doesn't work, and you're pretty sure the DM has put something nasty in there? Cast Echolocation on the party tank and have him lead you through.

-- Someone got zapped with a curse, and the cleric doesn't have Remove Curse prepped. Exit the dungeon and wait for a day... or just have the Spell Sage cast it. Blindness, deafness, diseases, poison and ability drain, same-same.

You get the idea. Not only do you have access to a huge mass of utility spells, but you also can access all those weird, super-situational spells that nobody ever uses. No wizard is going to memorize Soothe Construct, but if you're trapped in a room with the berserk golem bashing down the door, suddenly you've got it. Need to solve a murder mystery, fast? You have access to Red Hand of the Killer. Dungeon turns out to be unexpectedly full of bugs? Repel Vermin.

(Note that a few bard/cleric/ druid spells -- Scry, Enter Image, Remove Curse, Tongues -- are lower level than their wizard equivalent. So the Spell Sage can cast Remove Curse at 5th level, instead of waiting for 7th.)

Anyway -- Crowdsource question #2: what are some spells that are particularly likely to be useful?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


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Originally, back in 2014, this grew out of reading Brewer's classic Guide to the Blockbuster Wizard right after reviewing the "alchemical power components". Most of the alchemical reagents give pretty modest benefits -- +1 to damage here, a caster level here, an extra but of duration over there. But I wondered: if you piled them on each other, could you get some interesting results?

It turns out, yes. Yes you could.

I've made some tweaks and updates to this, and have added a couple of variant builds. Comments are very welcome!

The Alchemical Blaster Wizard: Getting Started:

Human wizard, 15 point build: Str 8 Con 12 Dex 14 Int 18 Wis 12 Cha 8. (Human because this build is feat-hungry at lower levels.) Evocation specialist with the Admixture subschool -- this lets you swap energy types (fire, acid, cold, electricity) on your spells 8x/day. Bonded object instead of a familiar. Traits: Magical Lineage (fireball) and, oh I don't know, Reactive. (You'll carry that trait for six long levels before it's useful. But then it will be very useful indeed.) Feats are Spell Focus (Evocation) and Spell Specialization (Burning Hands). Skills, meh, the usual. If you do the cyphermage dip (see below) don't forget to throw some ranks at Linguistics.

First Level -- Starting spells: Burning Hands, Grease, Mage Armor, Summon Monster I. If your party lacks a meat shield for you to cower behind, you cast Mage Armor before entering the dungeon. Otherwise, you take nothing but Burning Hands, baby. Your feat and your specialization = basic Burning Hands for 3d4+1 damage, DC 16 Reflex save for half. That'll sweep the street clean of most first level opponents.

But wait -- there's more. You invest in some alchemical reagents. 40 gp gives you a flask of liquid ice, which you can use as a spell focus for Ray of Frost, making it do +1 damage. The flask is not consumed, so you can use it endlessly. Together with your evoker bonus, that means this endlessly spammable cantrip now inflicts d3+2 damage on a +2 ranged touch attack. That's almost always going to be better than messing around with a silly crossbow. For your first couple of levels this will be your default attack.

For your main blast, use your admixture power to turn Burning Hands into Cold Hands, toss in some urea and you're now doing 4d4+1. Why? Because for just 4 gp/dose, urea gives you +1 caster level on cold spells. That's crazy good, and you're going to leverage hell out of it. At first level, it means 11 average damage, which will seriously dent most nonboss opponents and will simply wipe out a mass of low level opponents even if they save (which at a DC 16 Reflex, they probably won't). In the unlikely event you meet something that's immune to cold, you keep some other reagents in your back pocket -- brimstone (+1 damage on acid spells at 2 gp/spell) and saltpeter (+1 damage on fire spells at 3 gp/spell). For when you just want to add a little something extra to show you care, there's black powder (+1 damage on all evocation spells). At 10 gp/spell it's a bit pricey for you, but sometimes you just want to make the moment special. So if that cold-resistant creature shows up, you just shrug and throw Acid Hands for 3d4+2 or 3d4+3.

Oh, and you also carry around some spirits of wine in a flask. Those give +1 to spell level on summoning spells for duration purposes only -- so for 3 gp you can make your Summon Monster I bring something for 2 rounds instead of 1.

Finally, when you have a little money pick up a couple of flasks of acid. For 10 gp per casting you can use these with your Grease spell to inflict 1 hp/round of acid damage on anyone that stays within the spell's area of effect. And for just 5 gp/casting, alchemical grease adds 1 to this spell's save DC.

Second Level -- Pick up Magic Missile and a utility spell. You won't use MM very much for a while, but one day you'll be spraying a bunch of Dazing Magic Missiles around at a bunch of mooks. Meanwhile, your Cold Hands now do 5d4+2, or 5d4+3 if you blow the 10 gp for black powder. This is a quiet level for you. Don't worry about it; things are going to get interesting fast.

Third Level -- Take Intensified Spell (allows five more levels of damage on spells, +1 spell slot) as your third level feat. Learn Flaming Sphere and Summon Monster II. In your second level slots you can now carry Flaming Sphere for 3d6+2/round, or Intensified Cold Hands for 6d4+1 -- remember, the feat lets you go past the normal 5 die limit on this spell. In your first level slots, Burning Hands with saltpeter / Acid Hands with brimstone = 5d4+2.

But wait! If you throw in a flask of alchemist's fire as a material component (20 gp), your burning hands will set one enemy who failed his save on fire. This is only an additional 1d6/round of damage, but it's totally worth it just for the visual.

Leveling Up:

Fourth Level -- Get a utility spell, like Web or Glitterdust or Invisibility, and then also take Fox's Cunning. Because, oh hey: that's a transmutation spell, so for 3 gp/casting you can use magnesium to make it last as if you were a level higher, five minutes instead of four. No big thing, but that should get you through a couple of encounters. Put your +1 boost on Int, raising it to 19. Pick up a first level Pearl of Power. Intensified Cold Hands now do 7d4+2, or Intensified Burning/Acid Hands do 6d4+3, or Flaming Sphere does 3d6+2/round.

Fifth Level -- Fireball, baby. (Take Haste for your other spell, so that the other players stop going on about how you never buff them.) Take Greater Spell Focus and Varisian Tattoo, aka Mage's Tattoo on the PFSRD -- +1 caster level on all evocation spells. From here on out you can probably afford to add black powder as a default. Buy it in bulk, you'll be using it a lot. So now Fireball (or Acidball, or Lightningball) does 6d6+4, while its urea-powered Freezeball variant does 7d6+3. In your second level slots, Intensified Cold Hands do 9d4+3.

Sixth Level -- Take Communal Resist Energy. With a pinch of cold iron, you cast this at +1 caster level, meaning that at 6th level you can now grant 20 points of resistance. But wait! If you throw in a flask of liquid ice (40 gp) or of alchemist's fire (20 gp), you can add 20% to the resistance granted by this spell to fire or cold respectively: 24 instead of 20.

You're now high enough level to afford an Int-boosting item; get one, raising your Int to 21. Switch Spell Specialization from Burning Hands to Fireball. Your Fireballs now do 9d6+5 damage, average 36.5, or 10d6+4 for Freezeballs. In a pinch -- say, if the party is being swarmed by very large numbers of weak foes -- you can cast Communal Resist Energy on the party, then Fireball them and yourself. The party will still take damage if they fail their saves, but you'll clean out the enemies toute suite.

Seventh Level -- Take Empower Spell. Take Dimension Door -- you need the tactical flexibility and it's grapple insurance. There are several okay fourth level evocation spells... I'm fond of detonate (at this level it's 8d8+5 damage to everything around you, or 9d8+4 if cold) but yeah, you're probably better off with Ice Storm or something. Pick up a rod of Selective Metamagic. (This will finally stop the other PCs' pathetic whining about you catching them with your fireballs.)

After six long levels, Magical Lineage finally kicks in: you get Empowered Fireballs as 4th level spells. That's 10d6 (x 1.5) +5, or average 57.5 damage. With your Fox's Cunning on, that's a DC 22 Reflex save. Your 2nd level spell slots have Cold Hands for 8d4+4.

The Master Blaster:

Eighth Level -- You're going to start meeting things with SR, so pick up a rod of Piercing Spell while you're shopping for a better (+4) Int booster. Put your level-up point on Int, so you're now rocking a 24. You can now throw Intensified Fireball as a 3rd level spell for 11d6+6, or Intensified Freezeball for 12d6+5.

You now get the goofy Elemental Manipulation aura, which is mostly worthless but could be situationally a lot of fun if everything clicks. Here's what you do: before entering the Glacial Rift of the Ice-Themed Monsters, you set your aura to convert cold attacks to fire. Then you cast Communal Resist Energy (fire) on the party, throwing in a 40 gp flask of liquid ice to give everyone fire resistance 24. That takes care of winter wolf breath and such like. Then when the party is in melee with a bunch of frost giants or whatever, you get right in among the monsters and cast Fireball centered on yourself. Okay, the party will still take average 23 points of fire damage each... but the cold-based monsters will take average 70.5 each. (And, come on, the party rogue will probably evade.)

Finally, pick up Black Tentacles. Not only is this a fine utility spell for those confusing moments when you can't immediately blast something, but for 50 gp/casting you can use a tanglefoot bag as a component, allowing you to reroll your grapple check against one opponent. (I think this verges on OP, myself, but it's RAW.)

Ninth Level -- Icy Prison and Fire Snake are both fine 5th level evocation spells. Icy Prison is suck-or-suck; if the enemy fails a DC 24 Reflex save, it's helpless, and even if it succeeds, it's entangled and taking damage -- 15 on the first round, and then 11 per round thereafter, until it makes a DC 26 Str check to escape. Meanwhile, your Intensified Enhanced Freezeball is up to (13d6 x 1.5) +5 or about 73 points.

For your feat, Quicken Spell is tempting, but it's just a bit too soon -- you'd be using a precious fifth level slot to throw a simple 5d4+5 Quickened Burning Hands. It can wait until 11th level, when you'll be able to make any blast more interesting by adding a Quickened Fireball for another 10d6 +2 damage. Meanwhile, an interesting option is to take Cyphermagic so you can dip a level or two of Cyphermage. Casting from scrolls now gives you +1 caster level -- more dice of damage. For one level of Cyphermage, you take Focused Scroll; basically this means that once/day you can ignore SR. If you were to dip a second level, you'd take Enhance Scroll, because you can save just a sick amount of money with this one.

But for now let's keep it simple and go with Spell Penetration. SR is starting to be a common thing at this level. You're a blaster; if something at resists your magic, you've just wasted your round and accomplished nothing. So you need this feat. It stacks with your Piercing Spell metamagic rod, so you're always at either +2 or +7... and those will get doubled when you get Spell Perfection, heh heh.

Tenth level -- Speaking of Spell Penetration, it's probably time to invest in a few doses of Dweomer's Essence. Though not formally an alchemical reagent, this acts just the same way: it's a one-time consumable that you mix into your spell to add +5 to your spell penetration check. At 500 gp /shot, it's not cheap, but sometimes you want to be very sure that you're taking that bad guy down.

(Oh, and while you're in the Magic Shoppe? Blazing, Shocking or Voidfrost Robes: ECL +1 on all spells with the appropriate energy descriptor. 11,000 gp, but at this level you should be able to afford it.)

For your 10th level bonus feat, there are a couple of attractive options. One is the Alchemical Affinity arcane discovery. This neglected gem gives you +1 ECL and +1 on DCs for any spell you cast that is also on the alchemist's spell list. Tragically, this does include Fireball, but it does include a bunch of fun spells from Detonate to Magic Jar. And it's pretty solidly thematic. That said, if you're playing strictly by the numbers then you're probably best off taking Dazing Spell. It's everyone's favorite metamagic feat for a reason. Your Dazing Fireballs will only do 10d6+6 damage, but anything that fails that Reflex save is SOL. And it's not like you can't do raw damage -- your Intensified Enhanced Freezeball is averaging 80 points of damage, and you can throw 13d6+6 Intensified Fireballs around like Mardi Gras beads.

Variant: So Evil:

Here's a variant build for evil campaigns: at 5th level, reluctantly give up Greater Spell Focus and take Cyphermage instead. You'll miss the +1 on your spell DCs, but the extra die of damage from scroll-cast spells will somewhat compensate. Then take one level (6th) of Cyphermage to snag Focused Scroll. Then starting at 7th level, go Diabolist. You can enter the class by casting Lesser Planar Binding from a scroll, and your +2 from the Cyphermage feat means you'll almost certainly succeed.

Why a Diabolist? Well, first off, it's one of Paizo's best PrCs, and one of the few that really shines for evil PCs. It's not underpowered and it's nicely thematic. Second, at your second Diabolist level (8th, in this case), you'll get Channel Hellfire. This basically gives you a fifth energy type to play with. Hellfire does half fire damage, half unholy damage -- and the unholy stuff does double damage to good-aligned creatures. Facing a paladin? At 7th level, your Empowered Fireball can become a Hellfireball that does 15d6 (x 1.5) +5, or average 75 points of damage. That's one order of Paladin Vindaloo, served hot. If you're in a campaign where you're regularly fighting good-aligned creatures, this is just too good to turn down.

But wait! There's more! The Diabolist also gets an imp companion. Been missing a familiar? Bound object very handy, but just not the same somehow? Now you get an evil little buddy who scales with your total class level. And you also get bonuses on binding devils with Planar Binding spells. Oh, and as a cherry on top you get Augment Summons as a free feat, so you have another thing to do when you're not blasting. About the only downside of the Diabolist is that you're damned. Mechanically, that means that once you enter the class, you want to stay in it until at least 5th level, when you pick up Hellish Soul. Once you've done that, you can snag a second level of Cyphermage for Enhanced Scroll -- the cost savings on that one get really crazy at high levels -- then just continue with Diabolist or Wizard, as you prefer.

Any drawbacks? Mmm well, if you want to get the full benefit of being a Diabolist you'll want to start with at least a 10 Cha, better a 12. In a 15 point build that means weakening something else. What can I tell you? Evil has its price.

-- There's a subvariant where you ignore Cypermage entirely, and just enter Diabolist at 6th level. That's great if it works, but be aware that you have to buy a scroll of Lesser Planar Binding, which at 5th level is really expensive, and then roll with a dangerous 20% of failure. If you're willing to take that risk, okay. In any event, if you're going this route, go look up DMDM's Guide To The Diabolist, and have fun playing a horrible hybrid superblaster / summoner / caller. Grow a goatee, for me.

Variant: The Explosive Wisdom of the Sage:

In this variant, you go Spell Sage. That's painful -- it means giving up Arcane Bond *and* school specialization. But once or twice per day, it lets you overclock yourself and throw a single spell at ECL + 4. Let's pause a moment and run some maths on that:

Level 1: Burning Hands, any energy type, 5d4+1
Level 3: Intensified Cold Hands, 10d4+2
Level 5: Fireball, any energy type, 10d6+4 or Freezeball 11d6+4
Level 7: Empowered Freezeball, 14d6 (x 1.5) +5
Level 9: Empowered Fireball, any energy type: 15d6 (x1.5) +5

And, as gravy, your +4 ECL counts against overcoming spell resistance. -- Now, you only get to do this once (or, at 8th level and up, twice) per day. So you get one Moment of Awesome, and then the rest of the time you're a bit underpowered. However, this is partly compensated by the Spell Sage's other power: the ability to use cleric, bard and druid spells (albeit with a longer casting time and double spell slots). That ability is useless in combat, but becomes really strong if you have time to prepare. So if you're going this route, take a trait that gives you Stealth as a class skill, throw a few ranks at it, and take invisibility early. Then if blasting won't solve the problem, you can sit in a corner for a few rounds, find the precise cleric, bard or druid spell you need, and cast that.

Consider this build if (1) your party is small, four or fewer (leverages your spell flexibility); and/or (2) you're in a module or AP with a lot of 15-minute adventuring days (leverages your once/day power)(looking at you, Kingmaker).

Some notes on playing a Blaster Wizard:

-- At low levels, Burning Hands is your go-to blast, and it's short range. So if the party doesn't have a meat shield, be prepared to take the occasional hit. Keep your AC up, put your favored class points in hp, and stay friends with the party cleric. If the party does have a meat shield, then you glue yourself to his six. Make sure Mr. Fighty understands that if there are multiple foes in view, he is not to charge forward and leave you unprotected. Fighter types can be strangely dim about this. You may have to explain gently and carefully: "I love you, man, but if you're more than 10' ahead of me you're in my blast radius".

--These builds are designed to be viable across all levels. There's no slow startup. At first level your blasts are already doing serious damage (for first level). And there's no dip, so you don't have to wait an extra level for everything. (Looking at you, crossblooded orc-dragon sorceror.)

-- Sooner or later your GM will start getting tired of watching his monsters get flash-frozen, melted, and blasted to bits, and will start throwing golems and suchlike at you. This is why this build uses a bound object, not a familiar. "Your ready spells are all blasts, right?" "Gosh, yes they are." "Heh heh -- " "Sure glad I have my bound object with me! Grease." At higher levels, scrolls add even more flexibility; this is why going cyphermage and Enhance Scroll is so attractive.

Phew. -- Thoughts and comments welcome!

Doug M.


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Plausible Pseudonym wrote:
Does anyone's campaign include outsiders dedicated to punishing mortal spellcasters who abuse Planar Binding (whether murdering the outsider after they do their job, Stone to Flesh a succubus after receiving a profane gift, or Efreeti wish shenanigans)?

Not as such, but I like where you're going with this. In my Guide to the Diabolist and Guide to Planar Binding, I mention the possibility of outsiders organizing to curb-stomp you if you get too uppity, but I don't go into anything like this level of detail.

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Efreeti Enforcers: Working out of the Mage's Quarter of the City of Brass under the aegis of Grand Vizier, this group of Efreeti take revenge on spellcasters who do not bargain fairly for the wishes they receive. They rely on reporting from offended Efreeti, as well as divination when one fails to report for annual musters. When a target is identified, several Efreeti with class levels prepare an ambush around a Dimensional Locked killing ground, then have their mortal slaves use granted Wishes to transport the magician to his fate. Those who surrender are enslaved, those who resist are killed and their corpse paraded through the Grand Bazaar. So efficient, consistent, and well known is the operation that only the most powerful, cautious, or insane mortal spellcasters dare to coerce Efreeti into wishes rather than bargain (un)fairly.

Yeah, I think there almost has to be something like this. Otherwise any mope who can cast Planar Binding can get a free Wish. Gotta figure that the Efreeti, a Lawful Evil race of arrogant, malevolent creatures, would have long since shut that down.

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Diabolic Department of Discipline: Special units of devils take reports of disappeared or abused minions of the Archdevils. The devils, however, play a more subtle game with their quarry. First they observe, then they approach to offer a deal. If this fails, local agents on the relevant material plane may be tasked for revenge. Only in extremis do the Pit Fiends who lead these units use their precious annual Wishes to pull the perpetrators in for punishment.

Wishes are much less of an issue here, because only Pit Fiends can grant them, and there aren't going to be a lot of mortal casters that can call these guys -- you need to be at least 15th level and also have some sort of bump, either the Augment Calling feat or a Caller's Feather or three levels of Blackfire Adept. The bigger issue from Hell's POV is that the mortal caster is dragging employees away from their jobs and using them for their own mortal purposes. I definitely think Hell would have a whole array of tactics for this, ranging from complex and subtle to "screw it, a couple of advanced Cornugons plane-shift in and the offending wizard disappears in an expanding cloud of plasma". Hell being all about corruption, domination, and bad deals, I would guess that there are probably agents -- either devils or mortal servants -- who are tasked specifically with approaching mortal spellcasters and recruiting them.

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Abyssal Avengers: Demons lack the organization and individual accountability of Efreeti and Devils, but cabals of Nalfeshnee dedicated to the honor of the Abyss work randomly to punish those mortal offenders who their oracles (or reports from vengeful demons) reveal have repeatedly insulted or destroyed demons. Their Glabrezu partners force humanoid slaves to Wish for the transport of these offenders, where they are destroyed or corrupted - often by the offer of a treacherous wish from another Glabrezu.

I'm in near total agreement on this: it would be the nalfeshnee doing it, and they'd probably work with Glabrezu (who have the most to lose). Against midlevel casters, a Succubus with character levels could also be extremely powerful -- caster levels let a Succubus crank her Bluffs and her save DCs into the stratosphere, and it should be pretty easy for the demon to impersonate someone harmless and get close. (Killing a colleague or cohort of the wizard and taking their place would probably be a go-to tactic.)

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I'm not sure the celestials need a similar organization, but if their personnel are getting abused I'm sure they would have similar approaches. In any case, GMs trying to rein in player abuses should consider developing one of these ideas and spreading it as common knowledge among the magical populace.

Firm agreement!

I see some people are suggesting that the Inevitables might step in. I'm less sure. If a Chaotic Evil wizard is abusing a bunch of demons, I think the Inevitables would shrug and move on. More generally, "stopping someone from gaming the system" doesn't seem like a very Inevitable sort of thing. They've got enough on their perfectly and precisely circular plates.

Finally, I'll note the one group that probably *wouldn't* have something like this: elementals. Most of them are dumb as dirt, and they don't seem to organize well. Also, plain vanilla elementals have weak Will saves and no Sense Motive, so it's painfully easy for a wizard to convince them of some nonsense or other.

Doug M.


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the Diviner wrote:

But for your original question here is what I think is the most you can achieve in terms of raw number of hd on the Greater Planar Binding spell.

26 = 18 base, +2 Caller's Feather, +2 Blackfire Adept, +4 (Augment Calling doubled with Spell Perfection)

I'm not sure there is anything to call beyond CR 24 or so? Anything over that seems to be either a unique creature or 3PP.

Doug M.


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So far there's just one half-completed Mesmerist guide. Is anyone planning to do a proper guide to this interesting class? Or, does anyone have some interesting Mesmerist builds?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Blackfire Adept is a weakish PrC in terms of power; if you're any sort of optimizer, you'll never play this. However, it is moderately flavorful, and it does make for some decent NPC builds. So here's a miniguide.

Class requirements. First, the good news: the BA is a pretty easy prestige class to enter. Two useful feats, two useful skills, and a single language, and you're in. And you can start at sixth level. It's one of the easiest PrCs to enter. If you want to play this as a PC, building towards it is easy: play a full caster class with access to Summon Monster and the Planar Binding/Planar Ally spells. Don't even try this with a partial caster, and don't try it with a full caster that is heavily dependent on level advancement in its original class. Classic wizard, sorceror and cleric are probably the best here.

Blackfire 1. Now the bad news. There's no way around this: the Blackfire Adept makes a weak player character. You give up an entire level of casting when you enter this PrC, and if you stay with it you give up two more. You know what you call a 15th level character who can't cast 7th or 8th level spells? That's right -- a bard.

To add insult to injury, what you get in return is (with one exception) not that great. Sacred Summons is a fine feat, but it's just one feat. And the aura restriction means that you only get the benefit when you summon creatures that are NE. That's okay if you yourself are NE, because of this quirk in the Summon Monster spell: "Creatures marked with an "*" [which is most of them] always have an alignment that matches yours, regardless of their usual alignment." But if you're any other alignment, then the summoned creature's alignment will match yours, which means it won't "exactly" match your NE aura.

Personally, I think this is nonsense and I'd allow my players to use this feat freely for any nongood creatures that they summon. But your DM may not agree. Check in advance.

Blackfire 2. At second level, you get the weird Blackfire taint. Check this out:

Quote:

At 2nd level, as a standard action, a darkfire adept can corrupt the planar substrate into strands of darkfire that create a destructive resonance between herself and a target within 30 feet. She gains a +1 profane bonus on attack rolls and caster level checks against the target, and the target takes a –1 penalty on saving throws against the adept's attacks (or –2 if the attack is a conjuration effect). The taint lasts a number of rounds equal to her class level, though a successful Will save (DC 10 + the Darkfire Adept's class level + the Darkfire Adept's Charisma modifier) reduces this to 1 round. The effect immediately ends if the target moves more than 30 feet away from the Darkfire Adept.

The profane bonus and penalty become +2 and –2 (–3 against conjuration effects) at 6th level. They become +3 and –3 (–4 against conjuration effects) at 10th level.

This is classic Paizo PrC design: we're going to give this PrC a cool-seeming ability, but design gods forbid it should actually be all that powerful, so let's nerf it like three different ways. In this case, we have a debuff that would be pretty good except that it (1) requires a standard action, (2) only affects one target, (3) has a 30' range, (4) allows a Will save to reduce its effect to one round, which (4a) is probably have a low DC save given that (4b) it works off your Adept level, not your caster level, and (4c) uses Cha, which is probably not your strongest stat, and finally (5) allows the target to completely negate the effect by strolling a few feet away.

Your buddy the Court Bard has a debuff that's as good as yours, except it's an area effect, allows no save, and can be done as a move action. Your other buddy the Mesmerist has a debuff that allows no save, can be done as a free action, and has all sorts of cool side effects. You have a debuff that looks cool as hell -- corrupt the planar substrate into strands of darkfire! -- but in practice is so situational as to be almost worthless. About the only time you'll get to use this is (1) in a surprise round, or (2) if you're casting on a captive creature, either a prisoner or something that's bound in a conjuring circle.

Is there any way to leverage this? Well, basically anything that allows you to sneak up on a foe and get a surprise round. Invisibility, Improved invisibility, stealth stuff, improved initiative, yadda yadda. If you can throw this in the surprise round and then win initiative, you can get a debuff + Save Or Suck one-two punch. But honestly, +1 to overcome SR and -1 on saves is hardly worth burning a surprise round. When it's +2/-2 it's getting okay, but at that point you're at least 11th level and you *really* have better things to do with a surprise round.

So far, the Blackfire Adept is looking pretty crap -- you've given up a full level of casting for one feat and a mediocre, super-situational debuff power. Does the next level help?

Blackfire 3.

Quote:

At 3rd level, a darkfire adept may choose one evil outsider subtype from among the following: asura, daemon, demodand, demon, devil, div, kyton, oni, qlippoth, or rakshasa. Against outsiders with that subtype, she gains a +1 profane bonus on saving throws, caster level checks, Charisma checks, and Charisma-based skill checks. When using the planar ally or planar binding spells, she can call 2 additional Hit Dice of outsiders with the chosen subtype, and those creatures gain temporary hit points equal to her class level, a +1 profane bonus on saving throws, and a +1 profane bonus to the caster level DC for effects that would banish, dismiss, or dispel them.

At 6th level and 9th level, the darkfire adept may select an additional evil outsider subtype for her darkfire pact. In addition, the bonus against any one of her selected subtypes (including the one just selected, if so desired) increases by +1.

Let's sort out the dross first: +1, as noted above, is not that great. And since it's a profane bonus, it doesn't even stack with your taint power.

What's intriguing here is the "2 additional hit dice". Okay, that's solid. Giving the creature a bonus on saves and more hit points is just gravy -- and let's note here that the extra hp are based on your total level, not your adept class level. So at 10th level you're giving your called creature 20 more hp.

That said, you can get exactly this effect with the Augment Calling feat. And there's even a magic item that does the same thing: the Caller's Feather. It's 2,000 gp per use, but at high levels that's not really an issue. So one could reasonably ask, why would I play (let's say) a Wizard 6/Blackfire Adept 3 when I could just play a Wizard 9 who has taken Augment Calling? The Blackfire Adept gets Sacred Summons and a crap situational debuff; the straight Wizard gets to cast fifth level spells. Heck, the Adept doesn't even get to call up planar creatures until 10th level!

Fair enough. The answer, I would say, is that the Adept should always take Augment Calling. Boom: now you're at +4 HD. You can't cast Lesser Planar Binding until 10th level, but once you do, you can call up creatures with up to 10! hit dice! That's very powerful. I wouldn't call it OP, and I honestly can't say it makes up for that lost level of casting, but it moves this PrC from "why would anyone ever" to "okay, I could see it". And it stacks with level -- at 14th level you can use Planar Binding to grab creatures with up to 16 HD, and at 16th level Greater Planar Binding is, woo, bringing in the pit fiend.

Blackfire 4. At this level you get spontaneous casting of a slightly improved Unholy Blight. (There's a bit of rules confusion here -- you can't normally use Unholy Blight to attack objects -- but the intent is clear that you can, so I'd just say objects are neutral.) Unusually for Paizo, it uses a slot system to scale with level. This is actually okay -- not great, but okay. Improves to pretty good if you're playing Way of the Wicked or some other campaign where you're regularly fighting good-aligned opponents.

Okay, so this is where you STOP. Your 5th level of Blackfire Adept costs you another level of casting, which is... no. Just, no. There's nothing in this class that is remotely worth that. The 5th level power (Breaching) is super situational unless you have a DM who insists on throwing weird anti-teleportation effects at you (and the lost levels mean you couldn't use Teleport until 11th level anyway). The 6th level power (Breaching Legion) is a cool concept, but effectively nerfed by your lost caster levels. At 11th level you're casting like a 9th level caster, so you can cast Summon Monster V and summon a CR 6 babau demon that has a 40% chance of summoning a second CR 6 babau. That's a 40% chance of a CR 8 encounter. Your buddy the wizard can cast Summon Monster VI and get a CR 8 creature like an erinyes, straight up. You do also get your Darkfire Pact going up to +2, but still... no. Just not worth it.

Okay, so TLDR and conclusion: the Blackfire Adept is a very weak prestige class. The only reason to ever play it is if you want to call a lot of monsters with Planar Ally and Planar Binding. If you're going to do that, then (1) get a DM ruling on how you can use Sacred Summons, (2) invest in Augment Calling, and (3) grit your teeth and realize that you're going to be pretty weak for four levels (from sixth to tenth). Once you hit 10th level, draw your conjuring circle and start calling creatures: now this PrC becomes okay. If you're in a campaign where you fight a lot of good-aligned creatures, maybe take one more level of Adept. Otherwise, walk away and never look back.

This PrC could conceivably be balanced a bit better if the campaign involved some strong in-game incentives -- like, join the secret society of Blackfire Adepts and gain access to their Library of True Names, or some such. But AFAIK there's no such incentive in canon; if anyone knows otherwise, I welcome correction.

[The Adept is better as an NPC class, allowing some flavorful and interesting NPCs. When/if time allows, I'll do a post on that.]

Doug M.


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If I ever finish the Guide to Planar Binding, I may add a note on "overclocking". If you have any two of Augment Calling, the Caller's Feather or a Darkfire Pact, that lets you call creatures of up to 4 HD higher than normally allowed -- and it's not too hard to get two of those.

But this is not always such a great idea. The more powerful creatures are harder to call (better Will saves); harder to bind (higher Cha); and are simply more powerful and dangerous. At 9th level, using Lesser Planar Binding to call a 6 HD outsider is no big thing. It's a useful servant, but no 6 HD creature is going to pose a serious threat to a 9th level character. But calling a 10 HD outsider is something else again; if it breaks loose -- and there is an irreducible 1 in 20 chance that it will do that -- then it has an excellent chance of killing you. Calling a 22 HD outsider at 15th level, same-same.

There are ways to mitigate the risk, sure -- assistants, contingency spells, teleport, what have you. But still: it's really just asking your DM to get creative. Proceed with caution.

Doug M.


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Flying Grayson wrote:
Oh sweet, thanks guys. So that makes the max dice 26 then? Also Douglas, thank you so much for those guides! I'm playing a Diabolist right now and they will help immeasurably!

Ahh, then you probably want this thread right here.

If you use any of the suggestions from that Guide -- or if you have any other tips on playing a Diabolist, based on actual game experience -- please feel free to drop me a PM and tell me. I'm always looking for actual player input for future editions.

cheers,

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Augment Calling feat gives you another 2 HD.

You might find these threads of interest. (Warning: long, lots of reading.)

DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, Part 1

DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, Part 2

Things You Can Call With Greater Planar Binding, and Why

DMDM's MiniGuide to the Gate Spell

cheers,

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

[Mild spoiler for the very first scene of ISoS]
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PCs running from the Splatterman may attempt to escape or hide by using spells. I'd allow this, but I'd also make every spell go wrong ironically and catastropically. It's a dream sequence, so balance is out the window -- just use dream logic. Some possible options:

Mage Armor -- Forms full plate mail, but made of solid gold and immensely heavy. Unless the character has a Str of 14 or higher, he falls to the ground helpless. Next round, the Tatterman comes along and cuts his throat.

Summon Monster I -- Summons a Huge, grotesquely deformed, tentacled version of the creature. It immediately attacks the caster, swallowing him whole.

Expeditious Retreat -- Caster is paralyzed as per Hold Person, while any remaining goods and possessions fly away from him at fantastic speed, disappearing into the distance.

Grease -- Caster is glued in place for one round; treat him as entangled. He can break free next round with a Str check equal to the spell's DC, but the Tatterman will probably arrive before that.

Vanish -- The entire city becomes transparent, leaving nothing visible but the caster. Interestingly, the effect lasts for an hour/level instead of a round/level. The caster will probably not have time to appreciate this, as in a round or two he is spotted by a roving Hound of Tindalos, which immediately attacks. The caster can voluntarily cancel the spell; this causes the Hound to disappear, the city to become visible again, and the caster to appear immediately adjacent to the Tatterman.

cheers,

Doug M.


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Porridge, your points are well taken. I'm shifting things around a bit, and taking some of your suggestions.

Stuff:
No changes to Stuff.

Stuff 3: You find all your starting equipment in the first room. Since your character used to be a favored servant of Lowls, I will add a useful item of up to 2,000 gp value into your stuff... a magic weapon, minor magic item, a spellbook with extra spells up to fourth level, or the like. Your stuff will also contain a clue to your past (embroidered initials on fine clothing, or some such.)

Stuff 2: You find all your starting equipment in the first room. It's the normal equipment for a 1st level PC, with no clues.

Stuff 1: The DM determines one item that is definitely present -- a weapon, spellbook, or holy symbol, whatever the character most needs. Everything else, have the player go down his character sheet and roll: 50% chance it's there, otherwise it's marked "missing". Missing items will be found with Winter and the refugees, and can be claimed as soon as they trust the PC (attitude friendly or better).

Stuff 0: You got nothin'. You'll find one critical item (as above, weapon or spellbook) in the possession of the first ghoul or doppelganger you encounter in area B. After that, the refugees may have some of your stuff: roll for everything else, 50% there, 50% lost forever.

Physical:
Physical 3: You were dosed with a powerful stimulant that will temporarily increase either your Con or your Dex by +4. The stimulant wears off four hours after you wake up.

Physical 2: You're fine.

Physical 1: You have an injury (half your hp) that also affects your movement: either one arm isn't working, or you're at -10' on your move. The latter effect will disappear once you have healed the hp AND have a night's good rest (i.e., in the chapel... there's no good rest anywhere else).

Physical 0: You have the Sickened condition, and will have it until you have a night's good rest AND someone makes a DC 15 Heal check on you. You also have either a disease or an addiction (DM's choice); if a disease, you're already past the incubation period.

Mental:
Mental 3: You awake with your mind strangely clear and strong. You are immune to San damage for the next four hours. If not using the Sanity system, then you gain +4 on Will saves for the next four hours.

Mental 2: You're fine.

Mental 1: You're disoriented and distracted. You are at -4 to either Wis or Cha,and whenever confronted with a stressful situation (such as combat) you must make a DC 15 Will save in order to place yourself in danger. (If you fail the Will save by 5 or more, you can do nothing but cower.) You can retry the Will save each round; once it's made, you can act normally for the rest of that encounter or situation.

Mental 0: You seem fine at first, but in fact you have gained a madness as per the DMG -- either paranoia, mania, or phobia (DM's choice). The madness DC is 15. The madness passes if you can get a good night's rest and then make the Will save, OR you get a good night's rest after someone has made a DC 20 Heal check on you. The Heal check DC is reduced by 1 for every ten minutes the healer spends sitting with you and speaking calmly.

Fugue:
Fugue 3: You still get occasional flickers of memory from your past life. The DM may use this to give you hints or clues at any time during the first two modules. Additionally, during the first week after waking, you may reroll up to three attacks, saves, or skill checks, as the fading memories of your past self briefly inspire you to greater competence. These rerolls are a limited resource; once you've used them, they're gone.

Fugue 2: As per normal.

Fugue 1: You no longer remember your name. The DM or the other players will give you a name based on some characteristic ("Scarface", "Twitchy", or the like). Also, some of your memories are slow to recover. Whenever you attempt to attack with a weapon, use a skill, or cast a spell, there is a 20% chance you are unable to bring those memories to the fore. For a weapon or a skill, you are treated as non-proficient (-4 to attack rolls, no +3 bonus on skill checks). For a spell, you are unable to cast it, but you do not lose the spell or slot. Once you have used a particular weapon or skill, or cast a particular spell, you no longer have to make this roll. You can try to reroll a failed roll after at least ten minutes have passed. This condition passes after a good night's rest.

Fugue 0: As above, except the failure chance is now 50%, and you don't remember how to read or how to speak any languages but Common. The condition persists until you can get a good night's rest and then make a DC 15 save, OR you get a good night's rest after someone has made a DC 20 Heal check on you. The Heal check DC is reduced by 1 for every ten minutes the healer spends sitting with you and speaking calmly.

I'm just about to try these on my PCs in our PBP campaign, so we'll hae a chance to see how it goes!

Doug M.


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Yeah, nobody thinks they "owe" WotC anything. But they probably have an interest in increasing traffic to this site. -- Okay, any increase from renaming the forums would probably be pretty modest at this point. But there's no reason *not* to.

Also, housekeeping. '4e and beyond' when we're now 2+ years into 5e is just odd. (And glancing at that forum, there isn't a single 4e thread on the front page. It's 5e all the way down.)

Doug M.


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Steve Geddes wrote:


Yeah, I think the suggestion is just to rename it, not move all the 4E threads elsewhere.

That's right. The discussion forum and I guess the PBP one, too -- it's named the same way.

Doug M.


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The current forum is "4h edition (and beyond)", which (1) is a bit confusing, and (2) if you're googling for a 5th edition forum, impossible to find. It's not a terribly active forum, and possibly this is why?

I can understand if Paizo doesn't care to emphasize 5e on its own home site. But I think there are a lot of players on the forums who go both ways. I'm one of them -- I've been steadily buying Paizo proucts for almost a decade now, I prefer PF to 5e, but my players want to play 5e so I'm running a D&D campaign right now. It would be nice to have a more active forum to discuss 5e issues here at paizo -- I don't really want to go off to enworld or giantitp for those conversations.

Could we please have a dedicated 5e forum? Or, at a minimum, rename the current forum so that it's easier for people to find?

Many thanks,

Doug M.


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(H.P. Lovecraft invented the Worm That Walks):
"Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl."

Consolidating some stuff from an old thread. This is a set of seeds for a short campaign set in an evil city that is dedicated to the sin of Gluttony. This post assumes that PCs are level 8-10, but it's easily tweaked for other levels. The BBEG is a Worm That Walks who lives beneath the city.

Welcome to Glutton Town

The Worm lives in a city whose culture is big on conspicuous consumption. The wealthy enjoy lives of ostentatious splendor, while the poor groan in misery. And the absolutely best way to show off wealth in this town is a fifteen-course, six hour long, absolute gut buster of a banquet. The Worm loves this, of course, and makes occasional quiet interventions to make sure that public gorging and mass gluttony continue to be central to the local culture.

The Worm's lair is, of course, beneath the great Banquet Hall in the center of town. This is the center of civic life, where the notables gather to eat the finest dishes and decide the town's affairs over replete stomachs and tight waistcoats. The Worm -- which in time will eat all, eat them all -- lurks directly below.

Glutton Town's alignment is firmly Neutral Evil If you want to keep things simple, you can have Urgathoa be the patron deity. However, if you want to change it up a bit, have the usual pantheon of your campaign, but with the local temples being evil. If they're good gods, the local priests may be perverted or heretical. If they're neutral, well, you get a Temple of Pharasma with NE priests who speak of the goddess as the Great Devourer. A temple of Calistria that's CE, with worshippers commingling gluttony and lust in some really creepy and disturbing ways. A temple of Abadar with plump LE priests who guard the city's bulging granaries, and who enforce the rule against charity with merciless severity. And so forth.

One peculiarity of Glutton Town: there are no magic items or scrolls for sale of greater than 500 gp value. This is because the Worm's ally the Leng Ghoul has grabbed them all for itself. Trying to sell more magical items, or simply brandishing them publicly, is likely to attract the Ghoul's attention.

Encounters in Glutton Town

As soon as the PCs arrive in Glutton Town, they should notice that it's not a very nice place. Most of the people are obviously poor, and many of the poor are visibly scrawny or even emaciated. A few wealthy people walk around, obviously dominant; they are richly dressed in fine fabrics and jewels and are usually quite plump. (And also generally well guarded, if the PCs start getting ideas.)

Fairly early on, the PCs should encounter some monks. There's an order of monks in the town that has two branches. One is a group of simple, humble men and women who meditate, pray, and try to help and protect the oppressed poor. The other consists of gluttons. How does a monk become a glutton? By absolute, fanatical focus on eating, of course... not quantity, but quality. "Exactly sixty-two grains of rice, four slices of sweet potato, and half a cup of water. So begins the path to perfection!" The humble monks are LG, the diet fanatic monks are LE. Later on, the PCs may encounter the evil monks as foes. As to the humble monks... have one of them help the PCs in some small way when they arrive in Glutton Town. Then let them see him being arrested (maybe for violating the law against, I don't know, giving food to the poor. Giving food to people who can't pay for it is against the law!) Later he can reappear down in the Worm's lair, with something awful about to happen to him...

There are bloatmages, of course. Can't have a City of Gluttony without bloatmages. They're grotesquely obese and usually carried in palanquins. Arcane PCs may recognize what they are; others will just wonder why the palanquins have magical symbols all over them. The wealthiest and most powerful bloatmages have palanquins that are actually magical, borne by matched sets of slaves of rare and unusual races.

There aren't a lot of guards or watchmen. This is because the authorities have other means of enforcing order. One is a meladaemon. It might seem strange to find a daemon of famine in a city devoted to conspicuous consumption, but the meladaemon views this city as a ripe, fat fruit just waiting to fall into the hungry jaws of the lower planes. It is there as part of a deal struck between the Worm and a powerful daemon lord. The city uses it as an enforcer: after all, what could be more terrifying to a city of gluttons than an incarnation of emaciation and hunger come ravening to their very door? Also, the daemon's Reduce Plants SLA is very handy for punishing peasants who don't pay their taxes. It makes their fields less productive, but only temporarily, thus ensuring that they can be sold into slavery to pay their tax debts and their lands given to people who will take the lesson and work harder to provide taxes and food for the masters. (This is "Management for Productivity", Neutral Evil style.)

A basic meladaemon is CR 11. If this isn't challenging enough, give him the Advanced template or a couple of fighter levels. He spends a lot of time polymorphed into human form, but he doesn't bother disguising his daemonic aura or the fact that he's not what he seems -- he wants people to be terrified of him, and so do the city fathers. PCs who make trouble in town can expect a visit from this creature pretty quickly.

Entering the dungeon

There are several options for this. The simplest is that the PCs are contacted by the Resistance. (Because of course there's a Resistance.) These plucky rebels don't know about the Worm, exactly, but they've come to realize that the real source of the evil in their town is not the fat Council (selfish and venal though they are), but something deeper and much, much worse. They know there's a complex under the Banquet Hall, and they know there's something bad down there, and they can direct the PCs to the entrance. Use this hook if you want something fairly heroic and straightforward. If the PCs get really interested, you can have them join the Resistance for a while (using the rules from Book One of the Hells Rebels AP). But eventually, someone has to go down that hole...

Second possibility: once the PCs have done something noteworthy in town, have them be recruited by a powerful local nobleman. Lord Jowly sits on the Council, but he's come to realize that the Council is being manipulated by some deeper power... and also that members who pry too closely tend to disappear. He knows of the Worm's existence, but thinks it is just a powerful evil spellcaster. Use this hook if the PCs aren't particularly heroic, or you want to turn up the moral ambiguity a bit. After all, if the Worm is eliminated, Lord Jowly isn't going to embark on a program of radical reform. He thinks Glutton Town is fine the way it is. He just wants to be in charge.

More in a moment...

Doug M.


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CorvusMask wrote:
Just to note, just because its cool doesn't mean it makes sense or is a good idea.

I have a player who gets carried away with his own cleverness sometimes. Which is fine -- but he can carry the rest of the party off too!

Doug M.


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Apraham Lincoln wrote:

I was fooling around with a fearcaster based on a spiritualist with fear phantom. Seems there could be some good synergy there

Oh my goodness yes. Check out the fear phantom's first two powers:

Quote:

Horrifying Strike (Ex)

If the phantom hits a creature with a slam attack, that creature must succeed at a Will Saving Throw (DC = 10 + 1/2 the phantom's Hit Dice + the phantom's Charisma modifier) or be shaken for 1d4 rounds. Multiple attacks against the same creature do not cause the creature to become frightened. This is a mind-affecting fear effect.

If either the Nightmare Mesmerist or an antipaladin is within range, then the phantom has an excellent chance of inflicting the shaken condition on anything it hits. -- Mind, it has to hit; against opponents with high AC, or who are difficult to attack for other reasons, the phantom is less good.

Quote:

Increase Fear (Su)

When the spiritualist reaches 7th level, as a swift action, the phantom can emit a 20-foot radius aura that amplifies the fear conditions of enemies within it if they fail their Will saving throws (DC = 10 + 1/2 the phantom's Hit Dice + the phantom's Charisma modifier). A shaken enemy in the aura becomes frightened, a frightened creature becomes panicked, and a panicked creature cowers. This effect lasts either as long as the enemy stays within the aura and is under the condition of the initial fear effect, or for a number of rounds after it leaves the aura equal to 1/2 the phantom's Hit Dice, or until the end of the original fear effect's duration, whichever comes first. A creature that succeeds at the saving throw is immune to this effect from the same phantom for 24 hours.

This is a mind-affecting fear effect.

Again, this would stack with the antipaladin and the Nightmare Mesmerist. So if everyone piles on a single opponent, as soon as the phantom hits once the opponent must save twice at -6 or -7, taking the worse save, or be shaken... and then it must save twice again, the same way, or be frightened. And this works even if the creature is a stone golem or an ooze or something that can't normally be affected by fear.

Furthermore, it doesn't appear to matter where the fear condition came from. The phantom hits someone? Save or be shaken, then save or be frightened. Wizard throws a Doom? Same-same. Antipaladin rolled a good Intimidate check? Still the same -- a rare case where you can use Intimidate to get the frightened condition.

Yeah, this is pretty solid. I think the fearcaster Spiritualist replaces the Court Bard as the fourth member of our hypothetical Team Fear. Alternately, you can use the fearcaster to replace your arcane caster; spiritualists do get Doom, Cause Fear, Fear, and (eventually) Aura of Doom and Phantasmal Killer. That actually gets kind of insane. If you keep the Court Bard, then at 10th level, you could gang up on a single foe and immediately inflict (-3 stare -2 satire -4 cowardice) -9 and roll twice immediately against the Aura of Doom and you're frightened. Round 2, if you haven't managed to escape, Phantasmal Killer will mean nearly sure death; you would roll at -11 (!) with disadvantage on the Will save and then roll once with -8 on the Fort save to avoid death.

This isn't a terribly flexible team in some ways -- it's one mediocre melee fighter and three 3/4 BAB half-casters, so if something goes wrong, you could be in trouble. No amount of fear is going to protect you against traps, large groups of weak opponents could be troublesome, you can only dogpile on things that are in close range, and so forth. But against single foes who can be approached closely, it's absolutely devastating.

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Heretek wrote:
Add in an Antipaladin and you're onto something devious.

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

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Apocalypso wrote:

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

Defense & Offense:

DEFENSE

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

OFFENSE

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

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

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

Patron: Deception

Tactics & Stats:

TACTICS

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.

STATISTICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Exceptional Resources (Ex)

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

Permanent Spells (Ex)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lionel:

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

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

Cauldron of Lifedrinking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

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

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

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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.)

Background

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

The Four Excellent Stares

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

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

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

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

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

The Okay Stares

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

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

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

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

The WTH stares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.


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

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

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

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's been a while, but:

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

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

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

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

Doug M.


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

Quote:

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

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

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

cheers,

Doug M.

And James replied as follows:

Quote:

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

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

So there you have it.

cheers,

Doug M.


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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)
3: Iron Will
5: Bolster Jinx makes his Jinx Hex strip another -2 from target Will saves. Hex now strips -5 Will, -3 Fort and Reflex.

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.

Doug M.


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Tacticslion wrote:


No, they are not. I can't think of a standout horror adventure from Paizo that was actually good.

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.

Doug M.


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Arcaian wrote:
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.

Quote:
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."

Doug M.


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1) Cromwell was pretty obviously a Hellknight -- a totally badass Lawful Neutral fighter-type. Allies treated fairly. Faithful subordinates rewarded with loyalty. Honest in all his dealings, harsh in his judgments. Genocidally murderous to his enemies. Clear and rigid code imposed on the nation. Absolutely fearless in combat! The King? He's broken the law, off with his head.

2) After the Restoration, Cromwell's dead body was dug up, ceremonially hung, and then decapitated. His severed head was placed on a spike atop Westminster Abbey, where it stayed for the next forty-some years until it was knocked down by a storm during the reign of Queen Anne IMS.

3) It was grabbed by some guy, who sold it to some other guy, until after many permutations it was finally acquired by a wealthy English doctor around 1820. 160 years after Cromwell's death, it still had dried skin and flesh on it and was recognizably a head rather than a skull. The doctor kept it as a showpiece and it became an heirloom of his family.

4) The doctor's family kept the head for the next 140 years until the doctor's great-great-grandson got tired of the whole weird business and brought it back to Cambridge, Cromwell's alma mater. That was in 1960. Cambridge agreed to bury it. There's a plaque marking the spot, but it's not the *exact* spot, because they don't want people digging. So it says (paraphrase from memory), "Somewhere near here is buried the head of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England and Scotland, Cambridge class of 1622. Go Blues!". That was fifty-some years ago and presumably he's been there ever since.

6) That said, having the severed head of Oliver Cromwell come back as an incredibly powerful undead determined to annihilate anyone who supports the current Royal family, has a non-lawful alignment, or is Irish, could make for an interesting campaign seed. Let me know how it works out.

Doug M.


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Here's another one: use Gate or Greater Planar Binding to call up an astradaemon or two.

"But the astradaemon is only CR 16! It won't be more than a speed bump for my PCs!" Ahhh, but take a closer look. First off, as soon as it kills something with 5 HD or more, it gets +1 on all attacks, saves and checks for the next 24 hours. So you feed it a warhorse as soon as it arrives. Next, you see its Soul Siphon ability? Soul Siphon *stacks with itself*. Seriously, that's RAW, right there in the monster entry: "These bonuses stack with themselves." The astradaemon is a monster that's specifically designed to plow through piles of low level opponents, getting stronger and stronger as it goes. So, yes it starts off CR 16, but if you give it a few rounds to slaughter a bunch of guys, its effective CR goes up every round.

So you call this guy up, throw a bunch of buffs on him -- protection from good, haste, energy resistance against whatever is the PCs' favorite attack type, whatever -- then just turn him loose against a crowd of low level mooks. Hell, you can have it kill your *own* people. For the cost of a dozen dead goblins, you'll give the creature 12d8 bonus hp and an eye-watering +24 Str. At this point its FRA before buffs is now bite +36 (2d6+17 plus energy drain and grab), 2 claws +36 (1d8+17 plus energy drain), tail +31 (1d12+14 plus energy drain). Each energy drain deals an average of 5 negative levels -- no save -- so the party barbarian or paladin who charges this thing may be in for a fun surprise.

It has Fly 90' (before haste or other buffs), so you just send it over the walls with instructions to kill, kill, kill. The more it kills, the stronger it gets, so the PCs will have no choice but to come out and fight it.

Now throw a second astradaemon, at the opposite side of town. (Not hard for a 20th level lich to call up two of them -- just caste Gate or GPB twice.) Split the party, or let this thing slaughter the inhabitants wholesale?

Seriously, there's all sorts of crazy that can be done with these spells. Sky's the limit. Enjoy.

Doug M.


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For goodness' sake. Just use the Gate spell to summon something that's CR 20+, and have *that* thing trash the city.

DMDM's Mini-Guide to the Gate spell

Possibilities would include a pit fiend, balor, thanatotic titan, iathabos qlippoth, void yai oni, or vrolikai demon. If it has less than 20 HD, you can control it; woo! If not, well, summon something chaotic evil and give it a trail of crumbs / victims to follow to the city.

Doug M.


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A while back, I was messing around with the rakshasa bloodline and I came to realize it's not so great for most PCs. (There are a couple of exceptions. Let that bide, for now.) However, it /is/ very good for certain types of NPC...

Emily is a thirtyish human female who is -- if you catch her in one of the rare moments when she's not playing a role -- rather nondescript. (Her high Cha is a matter of intensity, not good looks.) I think she has a rather unpleasant and unfortunate background; details unclear, but "rakshasa bloodline" doesn't suggest a happy family life to me somehow. If you want to get psychological, you could say that her ghastly childhood has left her somewhat withdrawn, but with a vast talent for deception. Key character traits include "careful, patient and meticulous", "natural chameleon"; "incredibly convincing liar", and "very loyal to her boss".

And who is her boss? Could be anyone, really. Emily doesn't work for herself (and doesn't want to; she's not wired that way). She could be agent of the lawful good king. Or the BBEG. Or the Aspis Consortium, or the Pathfinders. You decide; she's true neutral, so she can work for pretty much anyone. The one thing that should be consistent is that she's a professional.

Building Emily:

Emily
N Female Human Sorceress 6 (Rakshasa bloodline)

Stats:
Spoiler: Hide
Str 10
Con 12
Dex 12
Int 12
Wis 12
Cha 18 (+2 racial +1 level)

-- 15 point build, with fairly even distribution, because a spy can't really afford dump stats. I've made her N, but any nonchaotic alignment could fit this build; season to taste.

Fort +4
Ref +4
Will +8 (includes cloak of resistance)

Init:+1
AC: +4 Mage Armor +1 Bracers of Armor +1 Dex = 16.
HP: 27

-- Emily's low hp and unimpressive AC would make her combat-averse even if she weren't already. She's a spy and a manipulator, not a fighter.

Mvmt: 30 ft
BAB:+3 CMB +3 CMD 14
Weapon: mwk Dagger (+4, d4).

Traits and Feats:

Traits:

Ease of Faith -- You gain a +1 bonus on Diplomacy checks, and Diplomacy is always a class skill for you. (If you want to get deeply into it, you could say that an old priest was the only person who was ever kind to her. An old priest of some god that lies a lot.)

Suspicious -- You gain a +1 trait bonus on Sense Motive checks, and Sense Motive is always a class skill for you.

Feats:
(H) Skill Focus (Bluff)
(1) Deceitful
(3) Still Spell
(5) Silent Spell

Skills: So she gets 4 ranks/round, which for a sorceror is pretty good. She divides them as follows:

Full ranks into Bluff
1/2 ranks (i.e., a rank every other level) into Disguise, Diplomacy, Sense Motive, Perception, Stealth, and, ohh, let's say Linguistics -- which not only lets her do forgeries, but also gives her more languages to lie in.

So that gives her +19 Bluff, or +24 when she's using her bloodline power to lie; +12 Disguise (+14 with kit, and she'll usually take 20), +11 Diplomacy, +8 Sense Motive, +7 Perception, +7 Stealth and +7 Linguistics.

Note that Bluff has the rarely used "pass a secret message" aspect. So Emily can talk to person A right in front of person B and, with some carefully chosen allusions and the droop of an eyelid, deliver a very clear message without B ever suspecting a thing.

Bloodline powers and Spells:

Silver Tongue: +5 to Bluff to lie 7 times/day, DC 16 caster level check to force her into honesty with magic

Mind Reader: as Detect Thoughts, once/day, DC 17 Will save

-- Emily's whole career as a spy is built around these nifty bloodline powers. Her Bluff to lie is +24, and with a few moments' preparation she can raise that to an eye-watering +26 or +28. This means she can get a half-plausible lie past pretty much anyone she's likely to encounter.

Spells:

0 level (7) -- Arcane Mark, Ghost Sound, Light, Mage Hand, Mending, Message, Prestidigitation.

-- Nothing special here, but note that she could cast these all even if bound and gagged, thanks to her feats. Message is pretty handy for a spy, Ghost Sound's a good distraction that goes well with a high Bluff, and Prestidigitation... well, Emily strikes me as someone who likes to be neat and pressed at all times.

1st (6 +1 for pearl) Charm Person, Disguise Self, Liberating Command, Mage Armor, Memory Lapse, Sleep

-- Emily casts Mage Armor (6 hours duration) every morning and, if the day doesn't look busy, again through the day so that she's usually covered. Liberating Command is for escaping grapples or bonds, or helping someone else do the same: handy for a spy. Still Silent Memory Lapse lets her reroll a Diplomacy check or an attempt to move with Stealth past a guard, while Still Silent Charm Person is how she says hello to potential problems.

2nd (5) Eagle’s Splendor, Invisibility, Retrieve Item, Seducer’s Eyes

-- Eagle's Splendor is her go-to buff. Retrieve Item is situational, but sometimes it's nice to be able to retrieve potions and whatnot from a locked cabinet several hundred feet away as a free action. (Emily has precast this spell on a bunch of useful items, just in case.) Seducer's Eyes is a spell she wrinkles her nose at a bit; at this level, it's a crappier version of Eagle's Splendor. But sometimes you just want to pile buff on buff, and "slinky seductress" is part of a good spy's repertoire -- though given a choice, Emily would rather play the second assistant accountant, standing meekly one step behind the Vizier.

3rd (3) Summon Monster III

Summon Monster is her only real offensive spell: a wolverine, fiendish ape, or d3 small fire elementals, if she absolutely must. But it's also collection of utility spells: dire bat to detect invisible, shark as an emergency flotation device, lantern archon for light and buffing, dretch with stinking cloud to clear a room.

Gear:

4650 gp

Bracers of armor +1; Cloak of resistance +1; Pearl of Power (1st level); 2 doses Elixir of Vision (+10 Perception for one hour); 2 potions of Cure Light Wounds; wand of Silent Image (20 charges); disguise kit; masterwork dagger. This leaves her about 350 gp for miscellaneous odds and ends. If she's staying in a safe place where she doesn't usually go more than 600 feet away (i.e., she lives in the castle and has a locked room), she'll keep some less valuable items there with Retrieve Item precast on them.

Combat:

As noted above, she has people for that. Emily is very good at building roles where she's perceived as harmless and well liked. PCs who attack her should pretty quickly be swarmed by the palace guard, the Thieves Guild, a bunch of enraged cleric-accountants from the Temple of Abadar, or whoever. Emily will feign helplessness, but may quietly pitch in with still silent spells and illusions from her wand. If she ever absolutely has to fight something, and she doesn't have charmed / bluffed friends around to help her, she'll back away, cast a couple of Summon Monsters, then go invisible. If a fiendish ape and 1d3 small elementals can't handle matters, she'll fly away.

Emily is best encountered while she's playing a role, running an infiltration, or disguised as something else. At sixth level she's a suitable minder for a group of low-level PCs, or a recurring nonviolent rival or antagonist for some midlevel ones. Emphasis on nonviolent! Emily's not much of a combatant. Her fantastic Bluff means she's usually got people around who are ready to fight on her behalf... but Emily is, as noted, a professional, and she won't hang around to see who wins. Getting information back to her boss is the first priority, saving herself a close second. Similarly, if the PCs are allies, she'll help them -- until and unless it jeapordizes her main mission, at which point they're on their own.

Thoughts and suggestions welcome. If there's interest I'll try building her out to 10th level; suggestions on build paths welcome too.

cheers,

Doug M.


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My understanding is that casting a spell with the "evil" indicator does not require the caster to be evil-aligned, nor does it automatically turn the caster evil. If anyone knows otherwise, I welcome correction.

@Leandro, this guy was an NPC in my Crimson Throne campaign. The PCs liked him a lot. The bard/exp/necro thing is because he's deliberately not optimized -- I liked the idea of a guy who took a while to figure out what he wanted to do-- and also to crank up his Will save, because I had one PC who liked throwing enchantments at NPCs. (Oddly, that turned out not to be an issue in this case; the PCs gave him respect, right off. Go figure.)

Doug M.


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Character concept: in a city, there's a gnome who works as the local undertaker. But he's also a necromancer -- with a side business as an information broker.

A necromancer? Hey, who's going to do a better job? And his alignment is LN -- he's a bit eccentric, but absolutely trustworthy. He has a very rigid code: if you give him a body to prepare for burial, he does that. (And very well, too). He's not turning any bodies into undead unless he pays for them first -- that side of the business is related, but separate.

He gets plenty of raw material for necromancy by dealing with the poor. Grandpa's dead, and the family has no money for a proper funeral? The gnome will do him up right, so that the whole neighborhood admires it... and then take Grandpa's corpse as payment, to be rendered into pieces for a skeleton, carrion golem, or what have you. But only if that's the deal! If you're paying full price, he'll prepare your corpse properly, give them a decent burial in a good coffin, and never look back. In fact, being a necromancer means he can make /sure/ the dead stay properly dead -- he knows all about vengeful spirits, how to drive off ghouls, you name it.

Going in another direction, Lawful Neutral means you'll do business with anyone who pays cash and keeps their side of the deal. In an urban area, that may mean criminals. Because sometimes people just need to dispose of a body, you know? And when that's the case, don't you want to deal with someone of proven trustworthiness? So he has contacts with both organized crime and the authorities -- hence the "information broker" sideline.

In appearance he's a severe little guy, black garments, white hair, mustache and beard trimmed to the millimeter. He's not suffering from that Bleaching thing, though. Quite the opposite; he's fascinated by the endlessly variations of death. Every corpse is a new story! (Give him someone killed in a really unusual way and watch his mustache tips quiver with excitement.) He's a respected member of the community who thoroughly enjoys his work.

And, yeah, he's got a back room full of undead.

I'm thinking something like Bard 1 / Exp 1 / Necromancer 7. (He started down the common-for-gnomes bard track before finding his true calling. And Perform [Oratory] and inspire courage are actually pretty useful for someone who has to deal with grieving families all day long.) Max ranks in Profession [undertaker]. Spells would be built around information and defense rather than combat per se. The Undertaker is not intended to be an antagonist for the PCs... more of a recurring NPC and a potential source of useful information. You can guess what sorts of payment he'll want, but then PCs do tend to produce a lot of dead bodies...

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Meanwhile, there are several things Paizo's design team have consistently done to make PrCs less attractive.

To be clear: I don't mind that Paizo PrCs tend to be weakish compared to the core classes. That's a deliberate choice Paizo made as a response to the badly designed, overpowered PrCs of 3.5, and I'm fine with it. I don't mind weak or suboptimal. That's perfectly okay, especially if I'm trading power for fun and flavor. What I'm objecting to are poor design choices -- stuff that seems tax-y, redundant, or poorly thought out, and class attributes that are pointless or non-fun. For instance:

Skill and feat taxes. I don't mind investing in a skill or feat that's a little unusual or suboptimal. That's part of the fun of PrCs. But please don't make me burn a feat slot on something that's irrelevant, worthless, or both. And while thematic skill requirements are fine, it's mildly annoying when you either have to either invest in skills that are completely worthless otherwise, or invest in so many skills that you're going to end up skill-starved. Any PrC that requires me to max out three different skills really should be one that's designed for rogues or bards. (Yes, Green Faith Acolyte, I'm looking at you.)

PrC class attributes that don't scale with level. This one is really common, and typically takes the form "at X level of the PrC, you get to do Y as a spell or SLA". For instance, the Souleater PrC gives you the ability to Summon 1d3 cacodemons at 3rd level. This is roughly equivalent to a 4th level spell, so it's not a terrible ability for an 8th level character. By 10th level, though, it'll be pretty pointless, and at higher levels it'll be almost completely worthless. (Note that the souleater PrC already has a cacodaemon familiar, so there's no great benefit to having two or three more floating around.) Similarly, a 6th level Harrower (at least an 11th level character) gains the ability to cast Divination -- a fourth level spell -- once/day. This is sort of okay at 11th level, but within a couple more levels it's almost completely pointless.

Class attributes that are trivial. Do I really need to list these? There are a lot of them. I don't mean stuff that is useless but flavorful, like the Winter Witch's ability to freeze water into ice. No, I'm talking stuff like the Harrower's Spirit Deck, which looks cool at first glance but is really a Magic missile, except with much shorter range and less damage.

Class attributes that are redundant. PrCs should be interesting and unique and should give benefits that are difficult or impossible to get otherwise. They shouldn't duplicate racial benefits or stuff you can get from an archetype or bloodline. For instance, the Master of Storms is an interesting PrC -- but its abilities overlap considerably with the Stormborn bloodline. You might think it would be a natural combination. In fact, it's distinctly suboptimal. Similarly, the Agent of the Grave gives you negative energy affinity that's identical to what a dhampir PC gets at creation, the Halfling Opportunist gives you the trapfinder rogue talent, and so forth.

Class attributes that force you to be MAD. A lot of PrCs have class attributes that build off a particular stat, i.e., "you can use this a number of times equal to 3+ your Cha modifier", "the saving throw on this is based in your Int modifier", and so forth. But this stat may not be the primary stat for the character. A PrC that's supposed to be accessible to all spellcasters shouldn't build a class attribute on (for instance) Cha, because that favors classes that have high Cha anyway (bards, sorcerors) while penalizing classes that normally dump Cha. Even worse are PrCs that build multiple class attributes off two (or sometimes even more) different stats.

Skill starvation. A startling number of PrCs are 2 skills/level. Why is this? Do characters in these classes have no further need of skills? This one gets particularly annoying when the class gives you benefits that are linked to particular skills. For instance, the Arcane Savant lets you use Spellcraft and UMD in ways that other characters can't. That's great! But Arcane Savant gives you 2 skills/level. In theory, a sorceror could become an Arcane Savant. In practice, any character without an Int bonus is going to have no skill increases after entering this class.

There are Paizo PrCs that avoid most or all of these problems. I've mentioned the Diabolist; it's a PrC that is good for any full casting class, doesn't impose feat taxes, gives you stuff that scales with level, and gives you class attributes that are both flavorful and unique. The Veiled Illusionist, with its Veil Pool, would be another -- it's a well designed class that is balanced, fun, and attractive if you want to cast illusions all day long. But a depressing majority of Paizo PrCs show many or all of the design problems mentioned above.

(Seriously, the skill tax one. It's minor, but like 3/4 of Paizo's PrCs are 2 ranks/level. What is even up with that.)

Doug M.


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Additional plot seeds:

-- A couple of cultists of Sifkesh, demon of suicide, have seen Garzuul in a vision. They've come to make contact with him and recruit him into their cult. Garzuul has zero interest in this, and is frankly alarmed that the cultists have found him. He may seek to recruit the PCs to deal with the "demonic infestation" that is threatening their fair city. Of course, he'll want to tag along quietly to make sure the cultists don't say anything incriminating before the PCs cut them down...

-- Garzuul has a special relationship with Jitters, a halfling. Jitters is a charming little creature with adorably curly hair, big brown eyes, and a sweet, gentle smile. He's also a murderer, a thief, a drug addict, a habitual liar, and an utterly self-centered Chaotic Evil little sociopath. Garzuul is reversing his usual tactics here: he's keeping Jitters relatively sane and preventing him from destroying himself. That's partly because the halfling is a good source of information, but it's mostly because Jitters is more fun alive than dead. He's leaving a trail of robberies, murders, broken hearts, betrayed trusts, drug deals gone bad, and generally horrific chaos behind him. The bell tower is the only place Jitters feels safe, and the gargoyle is almost the only friend he hasn't betrayed yet.

Garzuul knows that one day he'll have to nudge the halfling over the drop. He's actually a little sad about that! He'll miss Jitters. Meanwhile, he's taking notes...

PCs may encounter Jitters as anything from a con artist to an assassin. A chase scene may end up in the bell tower, leaving Garzuul with a painful decision. (Painful, but not difficult. He'll sacrifice the halfling in an instant if he thinks his own position might be threatened.)

Doug M.


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lemeres wrote:
Hmmm... great character, and massively satisfying degree of backstory and plot seeds.

Thank you!

Quote:
I might make suggestions for what to do if you need more than one creature in the encounters (cause 1 big bad encounters are usually 'meh' if its CR isn't WAY too high for the party)

I thought about that. I considered giving him Summon Monster II or Summon Swarm. I liked the visual on that last one -- a gargoyle surrounded by a swarm of bats -- and he could Inspire Courage to make both of them tougher. Also considered giving him a Robe of Bones or something similar. But ultimately I didn't, because he's not really a combat monster. Oh, he could get in an interesting tussle with a low-level party. But fighting isn't really his thing. (This is the same reason I didn't give him a missile weapon even though, as a bard, he could totally have one.)

No, if seriously threatened, he's going to run straight to the wizards. And the wizards won't like to see a bunch of scruffy adventurers beating up their mascot...

-- So Garzuul isn't really an opponent you have a boss fight with. Either you find some way to expose him, or you just deal with him as a continuing nuisance until you're finally high enough level to simply blast him out of the sky. That said, if you do want to set him up as a combat opponent, your idea below is an excellent one:

Quote:

He needs to get intimately familiar with victims, and he often forms a close relationship with them so he can use diplomacy, bluff, and spells to push them along. Since these are people that will (eventually) be at the brink of suicide, they will be emotionally unstable. Perhaps emotionally dependent on their 'one true friend'. And Garzuul shouldn't shy away from taking advantage of such resources when he needs to.

So don't be scared to have a few unhinged NPCs as backup during a direct fight. Garzuul can easily just say "Oh, things haven't been going so well for me recently either- this strange group of drifters have been following me all week. I think they have bad intentions".

Could be interesting in a fight- maybe allow the party to make diplomacy checks (or heck, bluff checks) to make them question Garzuul's 'advice', potentially turning Othello against 'dear faithful Iago'.

Bingo. Now, since most people aren't adventurers, a typical victim is going to be a relatively low level commoner or expert. That said, (1) a wealthy merchant or lawyer or other respected citizen can make all sorts of trouble for the PCs even if they don't have class levels; and (2) Garzuul likes a challenging game, so there'll be occasional dangerous adventurer-types. Especially from classes with low Will saves. Also, Garzuul's uncanny ability to know what's going on in the city may have earned him some allies that he doesn't need to charm; the local Thieves Guild, or simply a gang of drug runners or smugglers, may have some sort of arrangement with him.

Doug M.


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Garzuul is a gargoyle who lives in a large city. He's been there a long time. He lairs high up a tower at the Wizards' Academy, but he spends a lot of time hanging around the tops of tall buildings -- especially the bell-tower of the Cathedral of Pharasma. He's a well known character in the city; almost everyone has heard the famous Singing Gargoyle, and most people consider him a harmless oddity. He only sings on special occasions, town festivals, and the like, but when he does, his deep, booming song is like the voice of stone itself. The wizards are very pleased to have him, and think of him as part of the school's endowment.

Most gargoyles are malicious, cruel, very patient, and rather stupid. Garzuul breaks the pattern in one respect: he's not stupid. He's brilliant for a gargoyle, and his malice takes a much more sophisticated turn. Garzuul likes talking people into killing themselves.

The bell tower of the Cathedral has a spectacular view of the city, and is visited by dozens of people per day. It's also a popular site for suicides -- there are two or three every year. The clergy mildly regret this, but they're not going to stop anyone who is obviously determined to throw themselves into the Goddess' arms. What they don't realize is that the tradition of using the tower for self-destruction was created by the gargoyle, decades ago, and that he's still encouraging it today.

Garzuul moves stealthily around the city by night, landing on roofs and ledges, patiently watching and listening and occasionally using Detect Thoughts. When he finds someone who seems emotionally vulnerable -- a merchant with money problems, an unhappy lover, an angry teenager, whatever -- he'll stalk them until he gets a chance to use Suggestion on them. (His save DCs are low, but he's willing to try multiple times. And while a failed save means the victim knows something's going on, most people don't think to look up.) The simple, reasonable suggestion he implants is to take a trip up the bell tower, to take in the view and clear one's head...

Once a potential victim is up the tower, Garzuul moves to introduce himself. He'll use Aspect of a Nightingale to make himself more attractive, then Diplomacy to make the target friendly. If needed, he'll use Charm Person to start him or her talking. (Note that his Cunning Caster feat means that the average victim will never realize that Garzuul is casting. Even so, he'll often cast from out of sight -- on a ledge, up a roof -- just to be safe.)

Garzuul is nothing if not patient. He considers each victim as a game, and he's willing to take weeks or months to play to victory. He'll draw them out slowly, over time, gaining their trust, learning their history, and using a combination of diplomacy and Suggestion spells to gradually implant the idea of suicide. If the victim has problems with drink or drugs, Garzuul may offer a sample, possibly using Beguiling Gift to make it irresistable. If the victim has problems with relationships, careful use of Suggestion will help make sure that this just gets worse and worse. Simply driving the victim to suicide is good, but a truly great game involves driving them to complete and utter despair first.

Garzuul feels no need to rob or devour his victims: he's perfectly happy living off stray cats and pigeons. The satisfaction of concluding a successful game is usually more than enough. If the game or the victim were particularly memorable, he may occasionally take a small item back to his lair as a souvenir.

Garzuul's Hat of Disguise is used to occasionally look like a different gargoyle, to give the idea that there's more than one around. In fact Garzuul is a violently territorial creature who brooks no rivals.

Garzuul, the Singing Gargoyle:

CE Medium monstrous humanoid (earth)
Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +13

DEFENSE

AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+3 Dex, +4 natural)
hp 100 (5d10+5d8+50)
Fort +6, Ref +11, Will +10 (+4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic)
DR 10/magic

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft., fly 60 ft. (average)
Melee 2 claws +12 (1d6+3), bite +11 (1d4+2), gore +11 (1d4+2)

Special Attacks bardic performance 16 rounds/day (countersong, distraction, fascinate, inspire competence +2, inspire courage +2)

Bard Spells Known (CL 5th; concentration +6)

2nd (2/day)— detect thoughts (DC 13), invisibility, suggestion
1st (5/day)— aspect of a nightingale, beguiling gift, charm person (DC 12), grease, innocence
0th (at will)— dancing lights, ghost sound (DC 11), lullaby, mage hand, message, resistance

STATISTICS

Str 15, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 13, Cha 12
Base Atk +9; CMB +11; CMD 24

Feats: Breadth of Knowledge, Cunning Caster, Deceitful, Hover, Improved Initiative, Skill Focus (Perform: [song])

Skills Acrobatics +10, Bluff +14, Disguise +7 (+17 with Hat of Disguise), Diplomacy +11, Fly +10, Knowledge (history) +8, Knowledge (local) +12, Knowledge (all others) +4, Perception +13, Perform (song) +12, Sense Motive +12, Stealth +14 (+20 in stony areas); Racial Modifiers +2 Stealth (+6 in stony environs)

Languages Common, Terran

SQ freeze, bardic knowledge +2, lore master 1/day, versatile performance (sing)

Combat Gear: potions of cure light wounds (2), body wrap of mighty strikes +1; Other Gear: Hat of Disguise (usually looks like a stone crown), masterwork dagger (trophy, in lair), gold chain worth 200 gp and 320 gp in mixed coins (in lair), miscellaneous small items such as a diary, a locket, etc., of little cash value (trophies, in lair).

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Freeze (Ex)

A gargoyle can hold itself so still it appears to be a statue. A gargoyle that uses freeze can take 20 on its Stealth check to hide in plain sight as a stone statue.

Garzuul can be used as a bit of local color long before the PCs ever have to interact with him. He'll be aware of any adventurers pretty quickly, and may pass a friendly nod, or drop out of the sky to exchange the time of day. But you can mention him occasionally flapping by, or perched on a ledge. Ordinary gargoyles hide by blending in as part of the scenery. Garzuul has taken this to the next level by hiding in plain sight. "Sure, that's the Singing Gargoyle. Everybody knows about him."

Possible plot seeds:

-- The PCs need information, and Garzuul has it. The gargoyle's knowledge of local gossip is encyclopedic, thanks to his constant eavesdropping, and he's tolerably well versed in local history too. He'll be happy to help them, and his prices will be very reasonable. However, this means that they will attract the monster's attention. While PCs are not likely to be good targets, Garzuul may go after colleagues, cohorts, or friendly NPCs. Or he may simply spy on them and then sell the information to another party. Or his payment may simply consist of asking the PCs to bring a particular NPC to the bell tower for a conversation. A particular NPC who, some time later, will turn up very dead...

-- A paladin knows perfectly well that Garzuul is evil, and is morally certain that it's a deceitful menace. She doesn't know how, though, and she can't take the monster down without some evidence. She wants to recruit the PCs to capture the gargoyle for interrogation. (Note that Garzuul's Innocence spell could make it quite difficult to prove anything. And if the gargoyle is harmed, the wizards will be quite annoyed.)

-- One of Garzuul's recent victims was mentally disturbed. This made him easy prey... but meant that he rose from the dead as an allip. Garzuul would just set the priests of Pharasma on the creature, but to his alarm, its ravings include odd phrases and half-lucid sentences that implicate the gargoyle. Better to use some stranger who won't have any context for the spirit's mad babblings...

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Fleshy Facade is a second-level spell found in the Ghoul section of last year's Monster Codex.

Fleshy Facade:
School transmutation (polymorph); Level alchemist 2, bard 2,
inquisitor 2, sorcerer/wizard 2, witch 2
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range touch
Target corporeal undead creature
touched
Duration 10 minutes/level (D)
Saving Throw yes (harmless); Spell
Resistance yes (harmless)

The target’s flesh fills out and gains a healthy, natural color. This gives the target the appearance of a living creature of the type it was when it was still alive (if applicable). Creatures casting spells such as detect undead must succeed at a saving throw (with a DC equal to the spell’s save DC) to detect the target’s presence, and if the target is intelligent, it gains a +10 bonus on Disguise checks to appear alive or recently deceased. If the undead has any features different from those of the type of living creature it most resembles (such as a ghoul’s elongated teeth and claws), those features shrink and become less prominent, and the subject deals damage as though it were one size smaller. This spell has no effect on creatures that are skeletal or otherwise lack flesh.

TLDR: it makes a corporeal undead creature appear like a healthy living creature.

This has so much potential! The Monster Codex gives one pleasantly creepy example: a ghoul with bard levels, pretending to be human, wandering from town to town, and basically acting as a mobile freelance serial killer. But I can think of at least a couple of others offhand:

-- the wizard's loyal retainer died of old age. One Animate Dead spell later, the wizard has her faithful servant back! When he goes out shopping and does the errands, a quick Flesh Facade keeps the local townsfolk from getting too upset. Unfortunately, the wizard isn't really a necromancy specialist, and doesn't realize that her zombie is becoming free-willed... and hungry.

-- some liches are perfectly okay with spending their unlife in a cave or a crypt. Lord Willis doesn't play that way. As a living man, he was a wealthy who enjoyed art, literature, and the company of his fellow aristocrats. Why should a little thing like becoming an undead horror interfere with that? As a 12th level sorceror, Lord Willis can cast Extended Fleshy Facade for a four-hour duration, and re-up it whenever time runs short. And when troublemaking adventurers show up to investigate Lord Willis' dealings with the underworld, they're likely to get a surprise...

There must be many more. Thoughts?

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Note that the Heal skill will allow almost all low and mid-level parties to heal completely -- even from a near-TPK -- within a day or two. (People always forget this. Always.) So it's not IMO unreasonable to say that 1st level characters might not be aware that CLW wands exist and are easily available.

Doug M.


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Qaianna wrote:
wands but ICly I held back since that wasn't the sort of thing the average barbarian, even a smart one, would think of off the top of her head.

I'm on record as hating on the Wand of CLW, so be strong -- you're not alone.

5e has "solved" the problem by basically saying "Yup, you heal up easily between encounters -- take a day off and you'll heal completely!" I don't love this solution, but at least it's better than endless messing around with healing wands and healing potions and healbomb channels and what have you.

Doug M.


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Taku Ooka Nin wrote:
I actually rebuilt this werewolf to make it more of a challenge, not absurd but slightly better.

After a session or two, you'll probably notice that your PCs favor certain tactics. You can then adapt your creatures to those tactics. One guy always opens with Burning Hands? Throw something with fire resistance. The barbarian always rages and charges? Difficult terrain, flying opponents, and such.

At low levels, if you want to make an encounter more challenging, it's usually more effective to change terrain and/or add more creatures. Giving a single monster more hit points or DR sometimes works, but is usually less effective -- you're still facing the action economy problem.

Quote:

He's just like, "Yeah, that build was B.S., building something else now."

I guess he kind of knew this was coming.

Awesome.

Half the battle is figuring out what your players want. Even powergamers can often be seduced by a character that's less optimized if that character is really cool in some other way.

Doug M.


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Milo v3 wrote:


TBH, bloat is near useless in internet discussions since it's super subjective, what matters is whether or not the game has too much For You and Your Group not whether it is objectively too full or not.

I'd say there is a difference between "there is no bloat" and "there is bloat, but I and my group don't mind it at all".

Quote:
Also, in my mind bloat doesn't truly have anything to do with this discussion really since you can restrict it to Core or Core + APG and still completely break the game to the same degree.

Sure, it's possible to build high-powered characters with core. But allowing all the options makes the problem much worse. You'll notice that the OP specifically mentioned an orc/dragon crossblooded sorceror. That's a classic munchkin magnet, but it's not core: crossblooded is from UM.

Doug M.


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wraithstrike wrote:
1. Kingmaker is notoriuosly easy due to one fight per day problems.

This is a fair point. 80% of the encounters in KM are either random hex exploration or short encounters that a party can handle without having to worry about expending resources. So, even with merely competent players, a lot of KM encounters get blown over pretty easily. (And in the rare cases where everyone rolls badly, it's usually pretty easy for the PCs to retreat and regroup.)

Quote:


3. People on these boards tend to be better optimizers than those who do not frequent the boards in my observation.

This is very true. (And there are other boards out there, of course.)

Quote:
4. Someone will blame bloat, but bloat is a subjective issue. The last major discussion I was in, people could not even agree on what bloat was.

Gotta disagree. How many classes did PF have in 2008? Eleven. How many does it have now? [checks] 11 core, 8 base, 3 alternate, 10 hybrid, 6 occult = 38. If you don't look at the endlessly proliferating list of classes, archetypes, spells, feats and options and see bloat then, shrug, well then I guess you don't. But most of the rest of us do.

Doug M.


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Everything Headfirst said above. It's exactly correct.

Paizo has to keep publishing content, every month, every year. And there's a bottomless demand for more options: more classes, more spells, more archetypes, more feats. But as time goes by, the lists of stuff grow ever longer, and the possible combinations become impossible for the poor developer to foresee.

And as Headfirst said, the only real solution to bloat is to punch the reset button and come out with a completely new edition. That solves the problem... for a while, until the new edition develops bloat of its own.

PFRPG is now seven years into its development cycle. That's well into middle age for an edition of D&D. When Third Edition was seven years old, WotC was already planning to replace it with Fourth. Fourth never even reached seven years before being replaced by Fifth. Paizo has a huge investment in PFRPG, and so do the fans; replacing it with "PF 2.0" or whatever would be a huge risk. But at some point, they'll just have to -- the design space will be all used up. I don't think it's going to happen next year or the year after that, but inevitably they're going to hit a point of diminishing returns.

Anyway. 5.0 is a new system. It was cleaner and simpler -- or, if you like, cruder and less flexible -- to begin with, and it hasn't had much time to develop bloat and cruft. So yeah, a 5.0 campaign would be easier to run in that sense. However, it'll cut you off from a lot of excellent Paizo product -- unless you want to adapt that product to 5.0. I'm doing exactly that right now, with Souls for Smugglers Shiv. It works... but of course, it's a little extra work for the DM. Still, you may prefer it to endless wrangling with your players.

Doug M.


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A thing that hasn't been much discussed yet: a lot of these archetypes that are horrible for PCs work perfectly well for NPCs. The classic example here would be the Siege Wizard -- you'd never want to play one, but if one shows up with the army besieging your castle, you're going to sit up and take notice.

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Kurald Galain wrote:


That said, court bard's inverse insprite is worse than regular inspire, because it's mind-affecting (meaning numerous enemies will be immune to it), whereas regular inspire does stack with all common buff spells

I disagree. Debuffs work differently from buffs, so it's a little tricky to compare them directly. The key point about the court bard's Satire ability is not that it's mind-affecting, but that it's a debuff that doesn't allow a Will save. Those are relatively rare, and quite powerful.

Why this is so:

Here's an example. Albert, a 6th level plain-vanilla fighter is battling a CR 6 opponent... a young white dragon, let's say. Albert is probably attacking at something like +13/+8 for d8+6 damage. So on a FRA, his average damage per round against the AC 20 dragon will be (0.7 + 0.45) x 10.5 = 12.075 points per round, not counting crits.

His buddy Bob the 6th level bard Inspires Courage. Albert is now at +2 to hit and damage. His damage output jumps to (0.8 + 0.45) x 12.5 = 15.625, a whopping 29% increase in damage. (This is why bards are everyone's best friend! And also why, when fighting an enemy party, you target the bard first.)

Okay, so what about the dragon? Bite +11 (1d8+6), 2 claws +11 (1d6+4), 2 wings +6 (1d4+2); assuming Albert is AC 22, the dragon's DPR is (0.5 x 10.5) + (2 x 0.5 x 7.5) + (2 x 0.25 x 4.5) = 14.5. But now Carl the Court Bard steps forward, and uses Satire to debuff the dragon. It's now at -2 on attacks and damage, so its DPR drops to (0.4 x 8.5) + (2 x 0.4 x 5.5) + (2 x 0.15 x 2.5) = 8.55. That's an eye-watering 41% drop in damage output.

So which would you prefer: a 29% increase in your guy's damage output, or a 41% decrease in the enemy's?

Obviously you can play with these numbers depending on different opponents and whatnot. But the general point will hold: because of the way PF combat is structured, a -x/-x debuff is generally going to be more powerful than a +x/+x buff. So making the Court Bard's debuff ability mind-affecting was a pretty deliberate bit of balancing on Paizo's part. Even so, it's still pretty powerful.

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Like most outsiders, devils are immune to poisons and thus to drugs. But what if they weren't?

Plot seed: long ago, a powerful protean with an odd sense of humor got interested in the affairs of devils. Such tedious creatures, and yet amusing in their way. And their endless fascination with mastery and control... surely there were some possibilities for entertainment here? This particular protean had a secondary interest in the plant life of the prime material plane...

Devil Mint is a small, rather ordinary looking perennial herb with waxy leaves and small violet flowers. It grows best in warm temperate or subtropical climates and doesn't need much water. It's not edible to humans, nor particularly toxic, either. Careful sniffing (DC 15 Perception) will pick up that it has a strange, fleeting odor that is literally impossible to describe in any mortal language, and a Detect Chaos spell will find that a mature plant has a faint chaotic aura. Otherwise there is absolutely nothing unusual about this plant... to humans.

To devils, though, it has an effect rather similar to that of catnip on cats. A devil that comes within 30' of the plant will smell it and will instantly be aware of it and attracted to it. (There's no Will save -- it's an attraction, not a compulsion -- but the devil will certainly be intrigued and may become distracted.) A devil that eats a single leaf of Devil Mint gains increased alertness and insight accompanied by euphoric waves of megalomaniacal confidence. Lesser devils find the stuff incredibly addictive, and even more powerful fiends have been known to fall to its effects. Unfortunately, in addition to being addictive, over time it dramatically degrades the user's competence and judgment. As a result, it's been outlawed in Hell, and there's a standing order to exterminate the entire species right down to the last seed and root. But it's a hardly little thing that has spread far across the Material Plane. And devils -- themselves the great tempters of the multiverse -- may find themselves irresistibly tempted to try just one little nibble...

Drug stats for Devil Mint:
Type ingested; Addiction major, Fortitude DC 20 Price n/a Effects 1 hour; +2 to Reflex saves, +2 alchemical bonus to Perception, immunity to all Fear effects; Damage 1 Wis drain.

Hell has gone to some trouble to eliminate knowledge of Devil Mint, so it's a DC 29 Knowledge (Nature) or (Planes) check to know about it. Diabolists and those who traffic with devils sometimes seek it out, but this is very risky. Hell's version of the War On Drugs doesn't fool around with civil liberties or warning shots. A mortal caster who thinks it's clever to grow a garden of Devil Mint in order to ease negotiations with Hell is very likely to wake up one morning as an expanding cloud of plasma, courtesy of multiple cornugon fireballs (cast from a safe distance upwind, of course).

-- Mind, devils being devils, it's not quite as simple as that. Some powerful devils quietly make sure they have access to Devil Mint! After all, you never know when you might need to weaken an enemy... or frame one.

Comments? Thoughts?

Doug M.


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I'm adjusting the dryad encounter to match the general African / Caribbean flavor of the island. The tree is now an immense Banyan, with a trunk at least ten feet across and a broad canopy that's a miniature jungle in itself. The dryad is now a large brown-skinned woman of mature years, wearing a brown skirt and a green shawl. She'll have a strong Caribbean accent. My inspiration here is Mother Thames from the Rivers of London books; she's basically friendly, but no-nonsense.

Not sure it'll have any effects on the game -- TBD!

Doug M.

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