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Douglas Muir 406's page

8,607 posts. 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.

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As part of DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, I want to include an appendix on creatures that you can call and bind. Since there are a lot of outsiders, it's a big chunk of work. So I'm looking to crowdsource it.

Let's start with Lesser Planar Binding, which lets you summon and control outsiders of 6 HD or less. Here follows a partial list of targets. It's heavily weighted towards evil outsiders, because it grew out of my Guide to the Diabolist. You'll notice it's in order from lowest CR to highest; within a CR, it's alphabetical. Please feel free to either amend or expand existing entries, or create new entries (but in the same format, please, for consistency). If this works out, I'll post the other two spells later.

Many thanks in advance,

Doug M.

* * * * *

So, you have your circle drawn, your sacrifice ready, your nervous apprentice close at hand... it's time to start conjuring and binding! Here I list some of the outsiders you're most likely to conjure up. This is by no means a complete list; consult the pfsrd for more. An asterisk (*) means a creature that's a devil – a Diabolist can use Infernal Charisma against it.

There are three statistics you have to think about here: Spell Resistance, the creature's Charisma, and it's Will save. Its Will save is what it uses to resist being called in the first place, its SR will resist your spells, and its Cha can both get it out of the circle and be used to defy you. Remember, the more times it can defy you, the more rolls it gets to escape! So you want to win those Cha checks.

Lesser Planar Binding: Who You Gonna Call?

Lemure* [CR 1, SR 0, Will +0, Cha 5] -- The lemure is feeble, stupid, and has no useful skills or SLAs. If you’re playing a Diabolist, summon one of these at your initiation to start your career and then never bother again. Everyone else, don’t bother ever.

Imp* [CR 2, SR 0, Will+4, Cha 14] -- These little guys have their uses, but for a creature of their CR they're actually pretty hard to call and bind. Go with a zebub devil instead – they’re dumber and creepier, but are easier to conjure and make better scouts.

Gaav* (Host Devil) [Cr 3, SR 0, Will +0, Cha 8] -- These guys are pretty easy to call and bind, but for combat purposes the bearded devil is just going to give you much more bang for your buck.

Zebub* (Accuser Devil) [CR 3, SR 0, Will +1, Cha 12] -- The zebub isn't terribly bright, but it has at-will invisibility, at-will teleport, +15 stealth (the imp, for all its other fine qualities, has no stealth), whispering wind for reporting back, and a variety of useful SLAs including that weird Infernal Eye thing. Summon these guys regularly for use as spies and scouts -- in particular, if your party doesn't have a rogue, you want one of these flybabies bobbing invisibly down the dungeon corridor in front of you. Despite their low CR, they'll stay at least occasionally handy well into higher levels.

Hell Hound [CR 3, SR 0, Will +1, Cha 6] -- Fairly easy to summon, and their low Int means they're not too hard to please -- if you regularly give them meat and stuff to burn, they should be happy. If you're just getting started with planar binding, or you need to call up a lot of monsters fast with a high chance of success, go with these guys. A pack of them can be fun, but their low CR and lack of useful skills or SLAs means that before long you'll be moving on to bigger and better monsters.

Hound Archon [CR 4, SR 15, Will +5, Cha 12] – The hound archon is a respectable melee combatant, but his Aura of Menace makes him particularly attractive… it’s always a good debuff, but at this level it’s particularly nice, since a lot of low level foes will fail the save and then have trouble hitting him. If you're facing a bunch of mooks, consider turning him invisible: his Aura still works, and it will be very difficult for them to hit him and shake the debuff. He’s also one of the lowest CR creatures that can teleport, giving him wonderful tactical flexibility. And he’s got constant detect evil and magic circle against evil, and can throw aid spells all day long, meaning you and your allies should always be walking around with +1 to hit and an extra 8 or 10 hp.

Ukobach* [Cr 4, SR 15, Will +7, Cha 13] -- These little pyromaniacs are Paizo, but 3.5, not PFRPG -- they showed up in Pathfinder #25 (Bastards of Erebus) and have never been converted. Check whether your DM will allow them. A specialized tool, call these if you want to burn stuff down. Note that they're unusually "friendly" for devils, and may show up with gifts or information.

Barghest [CR 4, SR 0, Will +7, Cha 14] -- Call one of these when you need to get rid of a body.

Shae [CR 4, SR 0, Will +7, Cha 17] -- A decent bodyguard and scout for a creature of its CR. The Barbazu is much more powerful, but the shae is not inherently malicious, and has great stealth and some decent SLAs.

Barbazu* (Bearded Devil) [CR 5, SR 16, Will +3, Cha 10] -- These guys are your go-to, meat and potatoes devils for your first few levels of conjuring. They're relatively easy to conjure and bind: once you overcome their SR, their lowish Will save and weak Cha are unlikely to present problems, and you can raise the odds still higher by giving them something to kill (+2 on the Cha check). A single bearded devil is only CR 5, but four of them are CR 9 and a group of six is CR 10, so you can have squads of them running around into the low teen levels. They have respectable hp, AC 19, and the ability to dish out large amounts of damage quite fast. They're the lowest CR devils with at-will teleportation, which means that for their CR they're incredibly flexible tactically; they can pop up next to enemy casters, swarm opponents who think they're safely distant across a chasm, your party rogue will always have a flank buddy, you name it. Once you're able to cast LPB regularly, you should always have a few of these guys hanging around. Print out a copy of their stat block... you're going to be using it a lot.

Catrina [CR 5, SR 16, Will +9, Cha 19] -- The catrina is a tough creature to call for its CR, so you'll really only call it for one reason: to kill some particular target. It's about the best assassin you can find at this CR. It has invisibility and greater teleport at will, so it can teleport to its target invisibly, gain surprise, and then use its Compel Condemned power to command a deadly kiss. That's basically a save-or-die, and you can boost the DC 17 save by buffing the catrina before sending it on its way.

Cayhound [CR 5, SR 0, Will +6, Cha 13] -- If the barbazu is just not a fit for you alignment-wise, consider a pack of these guys. They're not quite as tough, but they're respectable in combat. The cayhound has the Dimensional Assault feat, which means it can charge up to 80 feet by means of Dimension Door, ignoring everything in between. That's very nice for getting at enemy bosses and casters who are hiding behind a screen of mooks, or enemies who are on the other side of a pit or a wall. Also, as a Medium creature, the hound can be ridden by a Small rider -- and it's been ruled that if your mount uses Dimension Door, you still retain all your actions. So if you're a small sized caster, you can drop a rank or two in Ride, call up a cayhound, and have unparallelled tactical mobility. The hound bamfs you wherever you need to go, you rain death upon your enemies, and next round the hound takes you somewhere else. The hound can't be grappled or Dimension Anchored (although you can -- take care) and its Dimensional Agility feat means that it can Dimension Door and still take a move or swift action.

Lar [CR 5, SR 0, Will +5, Cha 13] -- There aren't a lot of LG outsiders accessible with this spell. Fortunately the Lar is a good one. It is naturally invisible and is able to possess and animate objects of up to Large size. If its host is destroyed, it takes a bit of damage but can promptly possess another object next round. Since large inanimate objects are CR 5, this makes the Lar sort of like a continuous Summon Monster V spell as long as there's a steady supply of stuff for it to inhabit. Oh, and it can also throw DC 17 suggestions all day long -- pretty sweet. (Note that this can combine with its possession power in interesting ways. Put a lar in your desk, and everyone who sits down across from you gets hit with a suggestion every round.) Oh, and when you're not out adventuring, it has a bunch of SLAs it can cast to make your home more comfortable. If you're LG or close to it, put one of these guys in a suit of armor or something and keep it close at hand.

Nightmare [CR 5, SR 0, Will +3, Cha 12] -- There are two reasons to call up a nightmare. One is if you want to travel to the Outer Planes, as the nightmare can Plane Shift itself and one rider once/day. This is quite risky, since you have to travel alone and you can't come back home for a full day. But if for some reason you really need to go, this is the fastest way to get there. The other reason is, of course, to lend it to the party antipaladin, cavalier, or other steed-crazy fighter type. It's a great way to thank the party tank for standing next to you all those times. A few levels later you can offer him the chance to trade up to a cauchemar -- see below.

Umbral Shepherd [CR 5, SR 0, Will +8, Cha 15] – These guys are creepy but full of interesting possibilities. They can possess bodies as if by magic jar… in fact, they have to do so, because once conjured they quickly wither and die (d6 damage/round) without a body. Note that this means that, once called, you can kill an umbral shepherd simply by keeping it in its circle for a few minutes. In theory, this could make it easier to bind. In practice, your DM might rule that a creature of pure evil that serves the god of suffering isn’t going to just roll over for some schmuck mortal caster. In any event, if you’re going to call one, make sure you have a suitable host body ready for it. Once in the body, the shepherd is an excellent servant; not only can it hop from body to body, but it has a nasty Con-damaging touch attack.

Shadow Mastiff [CR 5, SR 0, Will +5, Cha 13] -- Give it a dog collar and cast Darkness on the collar. Voila: the mastiff now has 50% concealment, turning it from a mediocre melee combatant into a very good one. The mastiff's other useful trait is its bay, which can panic everything within 300 feet, but does not affect evil outsiders -- or you, if you make sure to expose yourself to it every morning before breakfast. The evil outsiders exception means the mastiff makes a nice mascot for you and a band of devils.

Venedaemon [CR 5, SR 16, Will +8, Cha 21] – For a CR 5 creature, the venedaemon is remarkably difficult to deal with: good will save, spell resistance, and a really high Cha. And after all that, you get a creature that’s basically a 6th level sorcerer with better hit dice and some immunities. It’s almost useless in melee and it doesn’t have particularly useful SLAs. Unless you have some really specific need for a daemon – someone has to swim through an acid-flooded underground tunnel, or some such – it’s probably not worth it.

Yamah [CR 5, SR 0, Will +7, Cha 20] -- Also hard to call, but at least you get a decent combat creature with an interesting debuff ability: the yamah can cast dispel magic as a touch attack, all day long. This ability would be awesome if it didn't require the relatively fragile yamah to wade into combat. It's still pretty good. If you know you're going to be fighting something with buffs, call up two or more of these butterfly-winged outsiders and have them dispel, dispel, dispel.

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Ravingdork wrote:
A fun read.

Thank you!

-- As to Bob being chaotic, I don't see it myself. He chafes under the Lawful regime, but it doesn't drive him nuts. He sticks it out at his hell-job until circumstances drive him over the edge. In fact, look how he deals with his job at the insurance company: he helps customers *figure out* the rules, but without *breaking* the rules. A chaotic character would have quit in disgust, or would have gone for full-on forging stuff and lying (or quietly ambushing the evil boss) instead of giving people advice on how to work within the system.

Further: he's faithful to Helen and a good, loyal husband and father -- as long as he's able to do good. It's not the rules that are driving him crazy! He doesn't love rules, but he can live with them. It's the not-doing-good part.

Finally, note that -- despite his "I work alone!" at the beginning -- Bob is an instinctive team player.* He partners with Frozone, then he's enthusiastically part of Syndrome's organization, then he's part of the Incredibles. He's not a loner, nor does he suddenly rush off on wild impulses. And he doesn't feel the need to be in charge -- he's happy to submit to Mirage's mysterious boss, or take good advice from Helen. His main motivation is not freedom or self-actualization, but just Doing Good.

Arguing alignment is a mug's game, and YMMV. But to me he really looks Neutral Good, right on the money.

Doug M.

*One of several clever things in this movie: everyone becomes the opposite of what they claim to be in the first ten minutes. Helen wants to save the world; she ends up being a housewife. Frozone is a player; he ends up married and settled down. Bob says he just wants some peace and quiet; he ends up getting it and it drives him nuts. And Buddy wants to be a hero.

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Yes, yes, an alignment thread. I'm going somewhere with this. -- So, just watched The Incredibles with the kids, and it occurs to me that some aspects of this movie fit the classic D&D alignment system neatly.

Bob (Mr. Incredible) Parr is Neutral Good. He just wants to be a hero and help people and save the world! He's neither lawful nor chaotic -- he is, purely and simply, a do-gooder. He literally can't bring himself to do an evil act (killing Mirage).

The regime he lives under for most of the movie is Lawful Neutral. Superheroes are chaotic and messy, so let's get rid of them. What matters is not right or wrong, but order and following the rules. Notice Bob's government handler's reaction? He's not upset with Bob for crippling the evil boss, but neither is he understanding of Bob's frustration. He's weary and annoyed because Bob is _not following the rules_.

Helen (Elastigirl) Parr is completely Lawful Good. She's not delighted about the regime they live under, but she doesn't chafe under it the way Bob does. She, not Bob, is the one who's always giving rules to the kids; she, not Bob, gets annoyed when people don't do what's _correct_ (as opposed to what's right). Notice her complete disbelief at the possibility that the island might fire missiles at an unarmed civilian aircraft. That's why she spends five minutes going CAN'T YOU HEAR ME? instead of getting the hell out of that plane. And then the first thing she does after crashing on the island is sit the kids down and explain the new rules to them.

She's not Lawful Stupid. She bounces back from that and does a much better job of rescuing Bob than he was doing of rescuing himself, and in general she's at least as smart and competent as he is. But being Lawful does give her a bit of a blind spot. See also how easily she's suckered by Bob's tales of promotions and conferences.

Bob's evil boss is of course completely Lawful Evil. "He's hurt!" "Well let's hope he's not insured with us, heh heh." Notice that he commits the classic LE error of overdominating and pushing a minion too far.

Most of the other characters are not sketched out in enough detail to provide an alignment (and, of course, the classic alignment system is a very imperfect tool at best). Syndrome is probably NE, the utterly self-centered sociopath variant, though I supposed you could argue for CE. Maybe Edna is true Neutral (good bad law chaos, bah I serve ART!). Leave that bide.

What's interesting is that Bob and Helen are both flawed characters, and flawed in ways that fit neatly into alignment. Bob's flaw is that he's frustrated (because he can't do good) and frustration makes him cranky and ill-tempered for most of the first third of the movie. (This is one of several places where the movie does a really good job of threading a needle -- they had to emphasize Bob's frustration and despair without making us dislike him. Harder than it looks.) NG characters aren't all sweetness and light, and that's doubly so if they're not being allowed to express their nature. Bob never does anything really bad, but he gets shifty and dishonest and kind of unpleasant to be around.

Helen's flaw is that she's gullible: she's following the rules, so she reflexively thinks everyone else will too. (And she gets pissed off when they don't, in a way that Bob doesn't.) Again, both psychologically plausible and consistent with the alignment system.

TLDR: you could totally grab these personality types for your campaign, either as a player or a DM.

Doug M.

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cnetarian wrote:

Grant her the ability to mask alignment through 2 levels of the spy PrC, or giver her an 8,000gp ring of mind shielding. I favor mask alignment though since it can make her appear to be LG and worthy of help.

Oh, that's a good one. That PrC doesn't require rogue levels, either -- just skill ranks. So she could be a Sor APL+3 / Master Spy 2. And a +2 bonus on Bluff and Sense Motive to boot. Very nice.

Doug M.

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Honestly, if your PCs are really that level of crazy paranoid, then don't bother with this scenario. (You might, however, consider a scenario where they encounter a hysterical injured girl who really is running from a monster -- and who is the child of a powerful, influential and extremely thin-skinned local nobleman. "You threw my daughter in a *what*?" Season to taste.)

Doug M.

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If the PCs ABSOLUTELY refuse to take the bait... then they do. Any paladin in the party should be very ashamed, but a party of standard PC murderhobos can probably shrug and move on.

Don't punish them for this! In fact, quite the opposite. A few sessions later, the PCs encounter an adventurer who tells a horrible story: he's the last survivor of a party who met a desperate young woman in the woods. The rest of them followed her inside the house, but he stayed outside to keep watch. He heard them screaming... and then he heard the Girl's voice. Laughing. Laughing.

And then a few sessions after *that*, have the PCs travelling along, when suddenly Last Girl runs out into the path in front of them, screaming, "Help! My friends!" And then she looks at the PCs, says, "Oh, crap." And turns around and runs back to the House and in the door.

You won't have the advantage of surprise with that one, but you can still have a rousing adventure through the House, culminating in a fun boss fight with the Girl and her demon pal. Never waste a hook, amirite?

Doug M.

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Ascalaphus wrote:

I like the idea!

I just worry I wouldn't be able to pull it off, I think the PCs would immediately suspect the girl.

I think there are a couple of ways to inoculate against this. One, red herrings. The girl is part elvish; that's not relevant to anything, but it's a distraction. The House just moved here from Varisia (or wherever): again, not necessary, but it distracts (and also ups the weird factor).

Second, you want to sketch out a role for her that makes sense at a metagame level. First, she's a low-level adventurer (or adventurer wannabe) that walked into something much too powerful. If you like, you can nudge this a little: have her be very impressed with the party caster. "How long did it take you to learn that? I can do the Dancing Lights! Well, sometimes. Usually sometimes."

Alternately/additionally, you can get the PCs used to thinking of her as the infodump. Have her feed them information. If she's telling them what's in the house -- and, by implication, the shape of the adventure -- they'll be a bit less likely to suspect her. Let the PCs try Diplomacy and Sense Motive. "She's more comfortable with Billy Bob the Bard now. Still a little freaked by the rest of you." "Sense Motive -- panick, touch of shock, really worried about her friends. She seems sincere." Again, crank her Bluff to the moon. If she's APL+4, then her Bluff -- assuming precast Eagle's Splendor, and either Rakshasa bloodline or skill focus -- should be at least APL +20. That's not unbeatable, of course, especially if the party has a Sense Motive monkey on tap, but it should carry her through.

If the PCs seem suspicious, play her intelligently -- she won't want to face them outside. If they're really reluctant, have her announce, with trembling lip, that if they won't go in... *she* will save her friends. She saw someone cast the Protecting from Evil spell, once, so she's pretty sure she can do it.

Doug M.

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SlimGauge wrote:
I've been in one too many parties with a pyromaniac. The usual response to haunted houses is "One arson house-fire, coming up.".

"My friends! My friends are still in there!"

If it seems your party might go that route anyway, consider hinting at treasure. Don't be obvious about it! Hint. Like, "It was a mess inside, and smelled bad, but there didn't seem to be anything dangerous... until we got to the room with the books. I told Bob, I told him not to touch anything, but..." I promise you, if there's the slightest possibility of a cool, interesting, dangerous, or valuable magic book in play, your PCs will not burn anything until they find out what it is.

Unless it's Call of Cthulu.

Unless it's Call of Cthulhu. In which case "Burn the books, burn all the books, scatter the ashes and then run run run" is the logical response.

Doug M.

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This is a plot seed for low to midlevel PCs. It is unashamedly stolen from The Librarians, because it's a cool idea. Hat tip to John Rogers.

* * * * *

The PCs are travelling through a forest or similar wilderness area when they hear the sound of distant shouts or screams. Investigating, they quickly encounter a young woman staggering through the underbrush. She is disheveled, covered in blood, and almost incoherent with terror.

"That... that thing! It has my friends! Oh, gods, they're still in there!" [breaks down sobbing]

Upon examination: she is well but not expensively dressed, and shows signs of elven blood. (She is, in fact, a half-elf.) Although her clothes have been slashed by what look like claws, her injuries are minor -- there's a lot of blood, but most of it is not hers. A simple Diplomacy check will calm her down enough to get her story.

She and her friends were a group of young people who dreamed of becoming bold adventurers. One day, they encountered an empty house in the woods and decided to explore it. Adventurers in training, right? And this seemed harmless enough... Alas, they had hardly entered the house when horrible, terrifying things began to happen. They tried to leave, but doors locked, windows suddenly looked out on vast terrifying otherplanar landscapes... and then the Bad Man came. One by one, they were taken. Except for the Last Girl: she remembered that she carried a magical scroll, a spell that opened doors. She's had just a little magical training (she wants to go to the Academae someday), so never dared try it before, but... it worked! She escaped!

But her friends are still in there.

(Additional wrinkle: she may mention in passing that they're from [city] in [country]. However, the PCs are traveling through [other country], and [city] is hundreds of miles away from here! If this is pointed out, the Last Girl will become a bit hysterical for a while. "We -- we can't be in Varisia! That's a /foreign country/!")

Okay, so the PCs investigate the house. Right off, this place looks creepy as hell; it's an ancient house, with a design from a couple of centuries ago, but the walls are cracked and stained, the yard is choked with weeds, strange fungi grow out of the woodwork, and so forth. Possibly some oversized moths are flapping slowly around... season to taste.

Above the door are wooden letters spelling out the words "R E F U G E". Give the PCs a moderately difficult Knowledge (history or local) check. If someone succeeds, they get


The Legend of the House of Refuge

Centuries ago, a kindly wizard built a house to be a refuge for those in need. The poor, the hungry, the desperate, those fleeing from war or persecution... they would find the house magically appearing across their path. Once they stepped inside, all their needs would be attended to; it was warm and safe and food, drink and clothing would magically appear. The House of Refuge could move somehow from place to place, arriving wherever it was needed.

But then one day, the House went bad. Nobody knows why, but it changed. Now it wanders the world, luring victims inside, and then slowly and horribly killing them.

So now what? Well, greed and curiosity should nudge the PCs inside. If not, Last Girl will begin weeping: "My friends are still in there! Oh, can't you please help them? You're adventurers... isn't that what you do?" If the PCs still hesitate, she'll rummage through her pack and pull out a scroll -- "This is all I have. Take it! Just, please, help them!" The scroll should be a random first or second level spell. The goal here is not so much to bribe the PCs as to emphasize Last Girl's pathetic desperation.

Into the House:

Once the PCs go inside, stuff starts to happen. Things fly through the air and just miss them. Doors open or close when they're not looking. There are horrible disturbing visions. Words like GET OUT and DEATH appear in blood on the walls. Animated objects attack them, then fall to the ground. And they can hear something moving around upstairs...

Last Girl clearly does not want to go back in the house, but she doesn't want to be alone either. So she'll go in with PCs. At some point a muffled shriek will be heard from another room; Last Girl will yell, "That's my friend! John, are you all right?" and will run through a door. If the PCs follow, there will of course be something dangerous and horrible on the other side. In fact, Last Girl will show a positive talent for wandering off stupidly by herself. If not followed, she'll disappear, leaving only a pool of blood and a torn item of clothing.

Efforts to escape the house will be fruitless; opening the door reveals a formless grey void, or worse. In fact the House is its own demiplane, and can move from place to place or world to world. And it doesn't want the PCs to leave...

What's actually going on here:

The House of Refuge never changed; it's still a good place. Unfortunately, it's been taken over by a very bad person. Some years back, a very wicked young woman made a pact with the Abyss. She gained the services of a powerful demon... but in return, she had to murder an innocent at least once per month. This worked great for a while, but finally justice caught up with her. She fled, with the forces of good right behind her... and encountered the House of Refuge.

The poor House foolishly let her in, and since then everything has gone to Hell. The House is something like a construct; it's programmed to respond to need. And she *needs* to kill people -- if she doesn't, she dies and the demon takes her soul to the Abyss. That's a very powerful need! So the hapless House, thanks to a glitch in its programming, has been turned into a mobile base of operations for a Chaotic Evil serial killer and her demonic sidekick. The panicked, hapless Last Girl is, in fact, the BBEG.

Last Girl:

I see Last Girl as a sorceress with a level of rogue, but season to taste -- if you think something else will work better, go for it. I'd put her three levels ahead of the APL, plus the rogue level. So if you have a party of 3rd level PCs, she's a Rog 1 / Sor 6. If your party is bigger than the standard four, or the players are very experienced, add another level of sorceror or two levels of rogue. Her Bluff should be sky-high -- rakshasa bloodline is good here -- and she should have lots of illusion and misdirection spells, along with something to conceal her alignment. She'll probably have Still Spell and Silent Spell too. She's cocky and overconfident -- this is all a fun game for her. But part of the game is to stay concealed until the last possible moment, so she will make every effort to do that. If she fails a Bluff check, or the PCs become suspicious otherwise, her first trick will be to burst into hysterical tears and then faint.

As for the demon companion, at APL 1 or 2 it's a quasit. At higher levels it can be a babau, a shadow demon (recommended!) or a vrock. Add PC levels and/or templates to adjust, but you want a CR that's APL +3 or so. The demon is the sub-boss; the PCs should not confront the demon and the Last Girl at the same time.

Inside the House:

The PCs should be encouraged to think "haunted house, inhabited by a monster / magical serial killer". In fact there are three things going on here. First, the House of Refuge is trying to warn the PCs. Unfortunately it's not designed for talking, so it's limited to cryptic messages in blood and the like. It locks the PCs in and plane-shifts because it senses that they are powerful adventurers, and is hoping they will prove Last Girl's undoing. It will try to warn them if it can, but its programming won't allow it to attack Last Girl directly.

Second, there are restless spirits of Last Girl's previous victims. These can be anything from minor haunts up to seriously dangerous undead. The House reluctantly protects Last Girl from them, but they can be very threatening to the PCs.

Third, of course, there's Last Girl and her demon pal. Last Girl will try to lure or maneuver PCs into danger, softening them up; the demon will strike from the shadows and then retreat, using hit and run tactics. The demon's nature should not be immediately obvious; it should wear a dark hooded robe, cloak itself in shadow, make use of illusions, or otherwise take care to disguise what it really is.

For most of the session, Last Girl and the demon will be toying with the PCs. Only once the demon is revealed and defeated will Last Girl realize that there's a serious problem here, pull the gloves off and start striking to kill.

Environmental issues:

All light in the house is reduced a step -- normal darkness acts like no-darkvision magical darkness, low light requires darkvision to see, and so forth.

Oddly, the House does not radiate evil. (Clue!) Attempts to smash walls or doors will work, but the House will "heal" the damage within a minute as soon as the PCs backs are turned.

Healing spells don't work here. (It's a side effect of the House's extraplanar nature.) At your discretion, a paladin's Lay on Hands and healing potions might still function -- but normal healing, nope, you got nothin'. If these seems too much, you could allow healing to be impeded instead -- but keep in mind that this is an excellent way to crank up the tension. PCs suddenly get a *lot* more cautious when they can't just be healed...

Wrapping it up:

If the PCs manage to kill Last Girl, they win! A search will now reveal a cupboard full of treasure, taken from Last Girl's previous victims. The House quickly recovers, becoming a normal looking small house surrounded by a lovely garden. It rewards the PCs with hot baths and a Hero's Feast and then drops them off wherever is most convenient for them. The House is now an ally of the PCs, and may show up again some day when they are in particularly desperate need.

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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Obviously you have to play Orff's Carmina Burana at /some/ point -- it's pretty much the classic "portentous music of doom".

BTW, the (long) thread for KoT contains a number of interesting suggestions for the module. I found it a little easy, myself, especially for experienced players or larger parties -- in fact, based on PBP, almost half of all parties end up killing most of Branderscar. That seemed a bit wimpy for "Talingarde's toughest prison". So IMC, I beefed things up a bit.


1) Added an anti-magic ward: DC 15 concentration check to cast any spell, and if you fail twice in a row you're nauseated for 10 minutes. It operates only inside the main building, so once the PCs are out of there it's no longer relevant, but it makes it bit harder to get out with simple magic. (If you really want to get into detail, I decided that the ward was a 300 pound lump of obsidian, heavily engraved with runes, located in a locked and trapped closet in the downstairs supply room.) Right at the beginning, you can tell spellcasting PCs that they have headaches and hear a faint distant whining noise; casters who make a DC 15 Knowledge (arcana) check will know that there's an anti-magic ward up.

(2) Added a third guard to the two in the cell block. (Makes this encounter a lot tougher. If that seems a bit much, have the third guy be asleep.)

(3) Added an alarm bell on Blackerly's office door, a simple trap on his bedroom door, and another trap on his chest. (The DCs on these were all low, but high enough to catch and injure ordinary soldiers. Blackerly seems like the kind of guy who'd take precautions against anyone messing with his stuff.)

(4) Added a barracks along the wall (where the dog kennel is) with a dozen guards. The guards are off-duty and unarmed, and at night they're asleep. They will take three rounds to clothe and arm themselves, or six if it's night and they're asleep. Still, just by existing they force the party to be more thoughtful, and make it a lot less likely that the PCs will just kill off everyone.

(5) Gave the Warden another level, made him a specialist illusionist, and had his owl sit in a window of the tower (giving him a Perception check against PCs trying to enter the tower).

(6) Added two more guards to Blackerly's game in the gatehouse.

(7) Gave Blackerly one expert level: better Will save, some skills, a few more hp, and +1 Str.

Season to taste, but you want the PCs feeling a little desperate... this should not feel like a standard dungeon crawl.

It's a great module and a great AP. Enjoy!

Doug M.

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

Part 6: You and Your Bound Outsider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 7: Sly Tricks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 8: Aftereffects:

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway: thoughts?

Doug M.

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Ah, found it.

* * * * *

The Sisters Market; or, making the Succubus more trouble

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

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

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

How? Why, through the Sisters Market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, the Sisters Market. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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I love this spell.

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

* * * *

Why this Guide? Three reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part i: Who You Gonna Call?:

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

Alignment and Planar Binding

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

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

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

Part 2: Drawing your diagram, and other preparations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3: The Call:

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

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

Part 4: The Binding:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My "Guide to Planar Binding" might be splitting off a shorter "Guide to Planar Ally". These are some preliminary first thoughts on that.

Casting the Planar Ally spells:

These are spells that let you call a friendly outsider, of your own alignment, to come and help you. They're strictly cleric/oracle spells, though in theory an inquisitor could get access to them through a domain. They take 10 minutes to cast, plus at least one round of negotiation with the conjured creature. Once the outsider arrives, you have to pay -- often quite a large sum of money -- for its services.

These are very different from the Planar Binding spells. Those are arcane spells, which force an outsider to serve you. In Planar Binding, the outsider is probably aggrieved and hostile, and may well plot revenge against you! On the other hand, its services are free. With Planar Ally spells, the outsider is not hostile, it's a fellow servant of your god, and serves you more or less cheerfully... but you're paying through the nose for the privilege. This guide will help you get your money's worth.

What you get:

When you cast this spell, you get a creature of the deity's (i.e., the DM's) choice. You can specify the number of HD that the creature has, and it will have the right alignment to be a servant of that deity. Beyond that, you have no control. You can certainly *ask* for a particular creature or creatures -- the spell specifically says that -- and if you've been a loyal servant that should count in your favor. But it's a request, not a command. Your deity will send you what s/he thinks is appropriate. You could ask for a 12 HD couatl and get a 12 HD celestial werebear paladin instead.

Now, whatever shows up should be a creature that can help you... and if your DM is creative, it might be a creature that can help you in some surprising or unexpected way. For instance, you might ask for a 6 HD hound archon to help you explore a dungeon. But the DM knows the dungeon is partly flooded with deep cold water... so your deity sends you a 6 HD celestial advanced giant otter instead. This would be completely legitimate, and indeed would be a reasonable way for your deity to reward good behavior.

How it responds:
: The creature should arrive friendly or helpful. Even evil creatures should not be worse than indifferent. This creature is a servant of your deity, after all, and it's there to help you. You're on the same side. As long as payment is made, and the demands placed upon it are reasonable and consistent with the spell, the creature should serve you and carry out your instructions. As a general rule, even evil creatures should not seek revenge upon you -- you're both doing the god's work, after all, and you're paying for the creature's time.

Caveat #1: This spell conjures up an actual outsider, not a temporary duplicate like Summon Monster. If it dies here on the Prime Material Plane, it's destroyed. So the creature is not likely to obey suicidal or extremely dangerous commands. You can order a summoned monster to jump into the dragon's jaws to distract it for a round or two; a planar ally is just not going to do that.

Caveat #2: The creature will serve you in a manner consistent with its alignment and personality. Evil creatures probably won't betray /you/, but they could easily be dangerous to your fellow party members. Good-aligned creatures will strive to minimize collateral damage; may want to attempt converting or redeeming monsters instead of just killing them; and may demand some higher justification than "it will serve the greater good if we kill these creatures and take their stuff". Chaotic creatures may get distracted, wander off, or creatively misinterpret your instructions if they think they know a better way. Lawful creatures will carry out lawful orders, perhaps a bit too literally, but may hesitate to defy lawful authority. If the creature's flavor text says it is fiercely righteous, or a scheming conniver, or a ravening engine of destruction, it'll want to act that way, and will insofar as it's consistent with your instructions.

What it costs:
You have to pay for the creature's help. First, there's a flat fixed fee for casting the spell -- 500 gp for Lesser Planar Ally, 1250 gp for Planar Ally, and 2500 for Greater Planar Ally. Presumably that's for incense, sacrifices, or other costly spell components, though in mechanical terms you just spend the money. Whatever else happens, once you cast the spell, this money is gone and you don't get it back.

Second, you pay the creature for its services. "A task taking up to 1 minute per caster level requires a payment of 100 gp per HD of the creature called. For a task taking up to 1 hour per caster level, the creature requires a payment of 500 gp per HD. A long-term task, one requiring up to 1 day per caster level, requires a payment of 1,000 gp per HD. A nonhazardous task requires only half the indicated payment, while an especially hazardous task might require a greater gift." My personal take on this is that "follow me around and be my bodyguard" would be medium, not especially hazardous unless you're doing something extraordinarily dangerous, but your DM's opinion may vary -- check first.

This payment can be in the form of a sack of gold or gems handed over to the creature; a donation to the appropriate church or charity; or "some other action on your part that matches the creature's alignment and goals." This "action" should cost you at least the equivalent value in cash, and must take place before you get the creature's service: "this payment must be made before the creature agrees to perform any services." Alas, no IOUs! Forging a magic item in advance might work; if you're summoning something evil, having a captive paladin (of high enough level) to feed to it might perhaps count. It's a judgment call, but the DM should not make this easy -- the "some other action" clause shouldn't be an easy way for players to avoid paying the piper.

Now, the nature of power scaling in D&D/PF means that paying a 6 HD creature 6,000 gp to follow you around for a week or two is a horrible deal. A 6 HD creature is just not that powerful, and there are probably better uses for your money. However, paying a 12 HD creature 12,000 gp to work for you for a while is not so bad. And paying an 18 HD creature 18,000 gp is actually really good. So, Lesser Planar Binding is a mostly pretty worthless spell except in some very specific situations; Planar Binding is meh to okay; and Greater Planar Binding can be amazing, especially if your DM is willing to give you a creature that you ask for.

Looking for a discount:

"If the task is strongly aligned with the creature's ethos, it may halve or even waive the payment." Note that (IMO) "be my bodyguard" or "help us clear out the dungeon" is not going to count as 'strongly aligned'. Fighting enemies of an opposing alignment won't do it either, thought it's a good start. It has to be something that's clearly the sort of thing this particular creature would groove on in a big, big way.

Notice that it says "ethos" rather alignment. "Ethos" isn't a formally defined term in PF. Reasonably, it should mean some combination of the creature's alignment, it's particular personality, and the nature of the deity you and it are working for. So, if you're working for a Chaotic Good god whose portfolio includes Liberation, then you might get that discount on a mission to free a bunch of slaves. If you worship a Neutral Evil deity who specializes in spreading diseases, getting a leukodaemon to start a plague around the city should reasonably come cheap. And so forth.

Other than this, there are just a few ways to cut the price. If you're a Diabolist, you get half-price devils, and if you take the Planar Negotiator aasimar racial trait, you can shave another 10% off the cost. (Oddly, this doesn't seem to care whether you're calling up good or evil creatures.) The Agonize spell (3rd level) lets you cut the price by an additional 20% to 60%, but at the cost of deeply antagonizing the creature and making it likely that it will seek revenge. This doesn't seem like a great idea under most circumstances, but it's possible to imagine situations where it might be worthwhile.

A continuing relationship?:

If you ask the creature to serve you, and pay the price, it will serve you. It answers to your mutual deity, or some servant thereof, so it will do its best to carry out your instructions. As noted, it won't commit suicide for you, and it won't mindlessly follow your every command. If you consistently order it to do things against its "ethos", or generally treat it badly, it may at some point simply quit. On the other hand, if you work together well, you could ask for the same creature back again.

More to come, but that's a starting point. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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Angry Wiggles wrote:

Slings. I have played a fighter dedicated exclusively to slings, so far to level 10. It is quite challenging and I have managed to avoid being dead weight, but I am regularly out-classed by other martials.

Another vote for slings. Historically a very dangerous weapon; in PFRPG, pretty worthless. You have to burn a bunch of feats to be as good as a plain vanilla archer. Even halflings have trouble making this a good option, and for everyone else... bleh.

Doug M.

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Whatever you do, advance the story with it. Or at least, don't *retard* the story. If it were my campaign, I'd consider something like the following:

1) Have him apologize and then promise to repay the merchant -- double! 1500 gp should be enough to make him think twice about doing this again.

2) Have him spend one, single night in jail as a token punishment. (And have everyone be clear that it WOULD be a month or more, except that he's a hero and they understand he was desperate, blah blah blah).

Now, as to advancing the story: you can either use this as an adventure hook or as a RP hook. "Adventure hook" means this leads the PC into combat, like the Night of the Ghouls mentioned above. I don't think that's a perfect fit, myself, but you know what suits your campaign.

RP hook means a chance for roleplaying. Have a couple of townspeople be sympathetic, while others condemn the PC. You can even stage an argument between two of them -- "They're heroes! They're protecting us!" "Oh, so HEROES don't have to obey the law like us mere mortals?" "He really needed it!" "Well, he could have asked!" etc. etc. This can establish that certain personalities are lawful (and/or like the PCs a lot) while others are more neutral or chaotic (and/or don't like the PCs).

Similarly, if the PC spends a night in jail, you could have ghouls attack... or you could just have him meet Otis, the town drunk. Maybe Otis will eventually have significance (he wanders around outside the town and knows about the mysterious ruins). Or maybe he can tell some rumors (wild alcoholic ravings about pink elephants mixed in with an absolutely true story of seeing the Sandpoint Devil or Nualia). Or maybe Otis is just comic relief, and now every time the PC is in town good old Otis will show up, staggering and slurring his speech, wanting "my good buddy, my man, my man" to come and drink with him. Because "We went through Hell together, man... prison... living hell... brings out the steel in a man... brings real men together... a bond that lasts a lifetime... you can't understand if you weren't there, maaaaan."

Doug M.

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Question for Richard Pett: do you remember the old (like, 1981) module _The Duke's Dress Ball_? It was for Thieves Guild, a 3PP first edition knockoff that only lasted a year or two. Their stuff was pretty high quality, though, and TDDB? was just astonishing.

The setup: you're thieves, you acquire invitations to the Duke's fancy dress ball celebrating his son's (highly political) engagement. Your options include picking pockets and filching jewelry; looting rooms; running a con; acquiring blackmail-worthy secrets; and picking up some (potentially explosive) political information. The ball is of course a seething mass of intrigue, with the occasional comic relief character stumbling distractingly across your path. There is of course One Suspicious Guy who is pretty sure you're not who you claim to be. There is of course a rival gang whose efforts will complicate yours.

It was almost entirely a long, non-combat role-playing encounter, of a sort that would seem rather indy even today. (If you start a fight, the ball is crawling with high-level characters who can smack you down hard, and that's before security shows up.) It was possible to get in a drunken duel out back, or to have a silent wrestle in the rafters with a foreign spy, or a quick cosh to the One Suspicious Guy's head around a corner, but 95% of it was what we'd call skill checks today, plus lots and lots of role-playing.

Today _The Duke's Dress Ball_ is a bit of an obscure classic -- there weren't that many ever printed, and it used a not-quite-1st Edition system that never really caught on. But if you're familiar with it, this gamer would be very happy to hear that it might cast some influence on the dress ball that is to come, or at least get an Easter egg or two. (And if you're not, the last time I looked it could still be acquired for $15 or so. Totally worth it.)

Doug M.

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If you don't give them some downtime (and something to do with it), they can fly through the entire AP in less than six months of in-game time. That seems a bit unrealistic, right? I think adding some time off gives a nice touch of verisimilitude.

So: here is a system I worked up for the PCs to cover a year of "down time" between Burnt Offerings and Skinsaw. It assumes that they'll spend their time in and around Sandpoint, and tries to bind them a bit closer to the town. The awards are suitable for low level characters; if your guys are 4th or 5th level, double the xp and cash given.

Comments and input welcome!

Doug M.

* * * * *

What to do with down time? How should the PCs spend a year off? Well...

Tell the PCs they can each pick one or two of the following. If a PC picks two, he gets the "basic" benefit for each choice. If he picks just one, then it's a double pick -- the PC is investing all his time towards that exclusively -- and he gets the "double" benefit.

Not all benefits are equally good: this is deliberate.

This list is not exclusive. PCs may wish to spend time on other matters: crafting items, for instance. That's fine, but if it's going to take more than 10% of the PC's time, then it counts as one choice.

The choices are:

Combat Training
Explore Personal Mystery
Party / Relax
Research (historical)
Research (magical)
Skills Practice

Administration: The PC becomes part of the town administration, serving as an assistant to the Mayor and the Sheriff.

Basic: All town leaders become Friendly to the PC. PC learns all basic public information about Sandpoint (who all significant NPCs are, what's available to buy, etc.).
Double: Everyone in town becomes Friendly to the PC, and the Mayor and Sheriff become Helpful. PC gains 200 xp. PC gains Knowledge (local) as a class skill, and adds +2 to Knowledge (local) rolls in Sandpoint. If the PC already has Knowledge (local) as a class skill, PC gains 200 gp instead.

Business: The PC opens a business in Sandpoint.

Basic: If the PC has a business-related skill, then make a skill check. Over a year, the business will return 100 gp x the amount of the check. If the PC has no business-related skill, then the business returns 500 gp.
Double: Double the above amount, and the PC gains a +2 circumstance bonus to that skill while in Sandpoint.

Combat Training: The PC regularly trains and practices.

Basic: The PC gains 400 xp.
Double: The PC gains 1000 xp. All martial characters in Sandpoint become Friendly. PC is known throughout town as "that guy who practices all the time", giving him a +2 circumstance bonus to Intimidate checks in or near Sandpoint.

Church: The PC must be a faithful adherent of one of the six gods at the Sandpoint temple (Desna, Erastil, Abadar, Gozreh, Shelyn, Sarenrae). The PC devotes large amounts of time to helping with church ceremonies, bringing food to the poor, etc.

Basic: Father Zantus becomes Helpful. The PC's reputation for piety spreads across the region; gain +2 to reactions from loyal servants of your god anywhere within 100 miles of Sandpoint. If the PC is a cleric or oracle, gain 300 xp; otherwise, gain 100 xp.
Double: As above, plus the PC can select a trait from that god's list of traits.

Crime: The PC befriends the local Sczarni, getting involved with smugglers and crooked merchants.

Basic: Jubrayl Vhiski (the local gangster) becomes Friendly. Make a DC 10 check against the PC's highest skill that is a rogue class skill. If the check succeeds, the PC makes 100 gp x the amount of the skill check. If the check fails the PC is captured, all money is lost, and the PC's reputation is damaged; all nonchaotic NPCs in Sandpoint become Unfriendly. If the PC is a rogue or bard, or is both chaotic and nongood, gain 200 xp.
Double: Double the profit and xp above, and the PC's knowledge of Sandpoint gives him a +2 circumstance bonus to Bluff and Stealth while in town. However, a check failure causes the PC to lose all profits and spend 30 days in jail, and all lawful authority figures become Hostile. Life in Sandpoint may become uncomfortable, as everyone will know the PC is a criminal.

Explore Personal Mystery: The PC spends the off-year focusing on a personal mystery.

Basic: Answer any one question the player has about the character’s past or fate, or tailor a special short campaign segment featuring this mystery. You don’t need to handle this at the table in front of the other players -- e-mail or a short trip to the other room will work. Keep it short and tightly focused on the mystery at hand, and avoid setting up a parallel campaign in which one player gets significantly more attention than the others. PC gains 100 xp.
Double: Not permitted; tell the PC he has reached a dead end in his researches and can pick another choice.

Party/Relax: The PC just kicks back and enjoys life.
Basic: Everyone in town becomes Friendly. (DM: roleplay this! Like, when the party meets an NPC, have the NPC greet the party PC first, slap him on the back, offer to buy a drink, etc.). PC must pay 100 gp if he has that much; otherwise, not. PC gains 100 xp, or 200 if chaotic. Make a DC 15 Cha check. If the PC succeeds, he now has a casual girl or boy friend. (If he succeeds by five or more, he has a couple of them.)
Double: As above, but PC must pay 300 gp. PC gets +2 on the Cha check. Make a DC 15 Wisdom check. If it fails, PC is part of a famous party that leads to property damage; pay another 200 gp (this amount must be paid). PC becomes mildly notorious. NPCs as far away as Magnimar may have heard of him, and he may get +2 or -2 on reaction rolls depending on how that NPC feels about wild parties and slacking.

Patrol: Although the goblins have been soundly defeated, they were but one of the numerous tribes in the Sandpoint region. A PC who decides to spend his time patrolling gets into regular skirmishes with small groups of goblins and other minor monsters. There’s no need to play out these combats — you can assume that the PC in question survives each with little more than a few bumps and cuts.

Basic: PC gains 200 gp and 500 xp and becomes familiar with the region around Sandpoint. Shalelu the ranger becomes Helpful and all other martial NPCs become Friendly.
Double: As above, but PC gains 400 gp and 1,000 xp. PC can attempt to start a romance with Shalelu (DC 15 Charisma check; failure means you're still friends).

Practice Magic: The PC practices spellcasting. (Must be a spellcaster, of course.)

Basic: PC gains 300 xp.
Double: Make a DC 20 check against your spellcasting stat. Failure means you gain 500 xp. Success means you make a breakthrough and gain a magical trait.

Reconstruction: The PC spends his time helping repair the damage done to Sandpoint -- rebuilding the houses and shops that the goblins built, tending to widows and orphans, etc.

Basic: The PC comes across a forgotten magic item of his choice, worth up to 2,500 gp.
Double: Same, and the PC also gains Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) as a class skill.

Research (historical): The PC spends the year investigating inscriptions in Thistletop and the Runewell, learning the history of Sandpoint, and interviewing its inhabitants.

Basic: The PC learns a great deal about the recent events. Feel free to fill the player in on any aspect of the backstory of “Burnt Offerings” he may have missed while playing the adventure. He gains a +2 circumstance bonus in the future whenever he makes a skill check to uncover additional bits of lore concerning backstory to the Adventure Path.
Double: As above, and if nobody has picked the Reconstruction option the PC finds the 2500 gp magic item.

Research (magical): The PC spends the year in magical research. (Must be a wizard, magus, or alchemist.)

Basic: The PC can add three levels of spells to his spellbook or formulae list, and gains 200 xp.
Double: The PC can add six levels of spells to his spellbook or formulae list, and gains 500 xp.

Romance: The PC can choose an NPC on which to focus his romantic attention. Alternately, he can just say he's looking for a serious relationship. (Note that casual sex is covered under "Party/Relax", above.)

Basic: Make a DC 10 Charisma check. Success means the PC has a serious relationship. Failure means the NPC is Helpful but just friends. (However, all good-aligned NPCs in town become sympathetic and Friendly to the PC.)
Double: DC of the check drops to 5. If successful, the character’s romantic interest can be treated as a cohort for the PC, although she should remain under GM control. Failure means the PC's heart is broken; the PC must make a DC 15 Will save each morning or be Fatigued. This effect will continue until 3 days into the next major adventure, at which point the threat of constant death will provide a welcome distraction. PC adds 1 point to his Wisdom score.

Skills practice: The PC picks a single skill and decides to hone it by relentless practice.

Basic: PC gains a +1 trait bonus on the skill. If the PC already has a trait bonus, this has no effect; give the PC 200 xp instead.
Double: PC gains a +2 trait bonus. If the PC already has a trait bonus, the PC instead gains a +4 circumstance bonus to that skill while in Sandpoint only, and 300 xp.

Travel: The PC travels away from Sandpoint. It is assumed that the PC pays his way by acting as a caravan guard or something similar, so this costs no money.

Basic: The PC is exposed to all manner of customs and sights. He can pick a single skill in which he already possesses at least one rank; he gains a +1 circumstance bonus to that skill check from now on.
Double: As above, plus the PC gains 500 xp. The PC can take Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (geography) as a class skill, or learn a single new language.

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Is Color Spray one of the best 1st level spells? For sure, absolutely. Is it overpowered? Less clear. People are comparing it to Grease. I'd compare it to Burning Hands as well. If you're going to take BH, you'll probably take stuff to make it a stronger spell. A Gnome Pyromaniac Evocation wizard with the Specialized Spell feat, using 3 gp worth of saltpeter as an accelerant? At first level, that guy will throw a Burning Hands for 4d4+2 damage. That'll kill almost every first level foe you're likely to meet, with none of this silly messing around with blinding and stunning.

Now, you may say that, well, he used feats and stuff! But here's a thing: there aren't a lot of feats and stuff that work with Color Spray. There's the one Oracle revelation, okay. There's Spell Focus: Illusion. And... that's about it. It's a strong spell, but it's hard to make it much stronger.

Doug M.

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This grew out of reading Brewer's 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.

* * * * *

Human wizard, 15 point build: Str 8 Con 12 Dex 14 Int 18 Wis 12 Cha 8. 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.

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.

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. Then you get right in among the monsters and cast Freezeball 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.

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. 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.

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.

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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Rerednaw wrote:

Uh I prefer something simpler. If I don't like the game I change the rules.

When we start the "Ways You Can Avoid SR" thread, we'll be sure to call on you.

SR is a major balancing element of the game; it's basically AC against magic. The list of useful spells that ignore it is annoyingly short. But if you can strip the SR away from powerful dragons, aberrations and outsiders and they suddenly become much, much easier to deal with.

Doug M.

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What's the complete list of things that can help you overcome SR?

Feat: Spell Penetration +2
Feat: Greater Spell Penetration +2
Feat: Esoteric Advantage +2
Feat: Piercing Spell +5 (one higher spell slot)
Feat: Damned (story feat) +2 against good outsiders only
Racial trait: Elven Magic (elves only) +2
Racial FCB: Clerics who are humans or tieflings can get +1/level
Item: Robe of the Archmagi +2
Item: Piercing Metamagic Rod +5
Consumable: Dweomer's Essence +5

Furthermore, anything that increases your effective caster level works against SR. This can be an item (the orange prism ioun stone gives +1 ECL to everything, the Orb of Foul Abaddon gives it to spells with the evil descriptor), a trait (Dark Magic Affinity for tieflings), a feat (the Maleficium feats give +2 ECL on spells with the evil descriptor), or what have you.

AFAICT all these bonuses stack.

What else is out there?

Doug M.

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Paulicus wrote:
Can you think of an example CE pirate from history? My pirate lore is sorely lacking.

Neutral Evil -- The default pirate morality, sure enough. But there were some exceptions.

Chaotic Evil -- Edward Teach / Blackbeard. He ruled by terror and committed atrocities and acts of destruction just because he felt like it. Once shot his first mate and good friend in the leg just because. Also, he kept lit gunpowder fuses burning in his immense black beard. Tell me that's not chaotic. (Also: along with Rasputin, living proof that humans can have a 20 Con. When they finally killed him, his body had 20 sword slashes and five pistol balls in it.)

Really Chaotic Evil -- Francis L'Ollonais. Blackbeard was a sensitive New Age Man compared to L'Ollonais. This is a guy who once cut the heart out of a living captive's chest and ate it in front of the other captives, just because. He liked torturing people.

Wow, so Chaotic Evil -- Edward Low. Go look him up.

Chaotic Neutral -- Benjamin Hornigold. (Yes, he was a real guy and that was his real name.) Blackbeard's mentor, he's been described as "the Emperor Palpatine to Blackbeard's Darth Vader". But that's not quite right, because where Blackbeard was a ravening engine of destruction, Hornigold was whimsical and sometimes even fun. Like, he once stopped a merchant ship, and -- to the confusion of both its crew and his own -- demanded every hat on the ship, got them, and then sailed away without any other loot. When he got tired of being a pirate, he switched sides and became a pirate hunter; would likely have switched back again if he hadn't died in a storm first.

Lawful Evil -- Bartholomew Roberts, aka Black Bart. The most organized of the great pirates, famous for being merciless but utterly fair and just. Ran a pirate fleet as if it was a professional navy.

Neutral -- Jean Lafitte. Switched sides repeatedly, wasn't pointlessly cruel, kept to the code of a gentleman.

Doug M.

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I really want to hear how this all comes out.

Doug M.

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Here's a concept that was just a bit too insane to make it into the Guide: The Two-Imp Debuff. "You walk into a room full of monsters, and your two imps start jumping up and down on your shoulders, screeching like insane apes, and all the monsters become demoralized."

Doug M.

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Suthainn wrote:
What do you think of a Cleric using either the Law or Evil Domain to snag the Subdomain Devil. That would get you Planar Binding as a 6th level spell the same as Wizards, thus bypassing one of the significant issues of a Divine caster even though it limits you to only Devils (and of note that would also open up the Fiendish Vessel archetype which gets you rather nice thematic abilities if you're a Tiefling).

I'm neutral about Fiendish Vessel -- it's thematically quite nice, but you already get an imp from being a Diabolist, and the ability to evilbomb good foes is very situational. (You can use the imp familiar to do it, but unlike your imp companion, those things cost money to replace.) Also, you have to be a tiefling, and while there are a couple of tiefling subraces that are good for a diabolist (grimspawn and beastbrood), they're IMO not quite as good a human, elf, gnome (for a sorceror) or some of the aasimar subraces. That said, this is a thematic choice that is perfectly playable. If you go this route, consider the Dark Magic Affinity and Family Connections tiefling traits -- both are great for a Diabolist -- and once you have 9,000 gp to spare, invest in a Darksire Amulet.

Taking the devil subdomain is probably the best thing to do for a cleric, yes. Planar Binding is great at 11th and 12th levels, okay at 13th and 14th levels. Then it starts to fade, but at that point you'll have Greater Planar Ally and the cost/benefit equation will be starting to tip in your direction.


I'm looking at making one for a hopefully upcoming campaign and whilst I really like the PrC and a Wizard seems the best choice I think a Cleric opens up some super fun options (especially things such as Conversion Channel, who doesn't love making good guys choose between death or converting to Asmodeus!)

I agree -- that's a hugely fun feat. Mechanically it's limited by the fact that your Diabolist levels don't give you channeling dice, but who cares? Being able to healbomb once/day is also pretty nice.

Doug M.

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It's a pity Brewer has gone away; this is probably my single favorite Guide. Many thanks to ZanThrax for keeping it mirrored and available.

Anyway, a general question. The Maleficium feat chain from Champions of Corruption lets you get the following benefit: "When you apply a metamagic feat to a spell with the evil descriptor, that spell takes up a spell slot 1 level lower than normal (to a minimum of 1 level above the spell’s actual level)." That's pretty nice, but it's balanced by the fact that there are only a few spells with the evil descriptor that will really benefit from it.

However -- the Diabolist prestige class has the Hellfire Admixture power, which lets you swap Hellfire for any other energy type a few times per day. And when you do that, the spell gains the evil descriptor. So, you can get dazing spells for +2 levels instead of +3, empowered spells for +1 instead of +2, and so forth.

I mention this in my recent Guide to the Diabolist, but don't give details except to say "this combination can make you a remarkable blaster". But I'd be interested to hear what you guys think. How would you best use this to build a blaster?

Doug M.

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Finally complete, the Guide can now be found right here, and Broken Zenith tells me it should be up in the Guides thread soon as well. This was published in installments here over several months, so thanks to everyone who commented on those threads.

A couple of notes about the current version. First, it's just a simple Word doc, with no illustrations or clever graphics. I respect people who can turn their guides into works of art, but my talents don't lie in that direction. Second, it was getting unmanageably huge until I realized that the Planar Binding stuff could and should be cracked out into its own guide. So, watch for DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, out (I hope) next week.

So here it is! Comments are very welcome, I'd love to hear what you think.


Doug M.

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Peet wrote:
One of the things that often seems to happen is that wording gets pared down because the publishers are always trying to cram so much into a small space. Occasionally I think a clause or phrase gets dropped which didn't seem important at the time but actually needed to be in there to clarify things.

I have seen this happen, so it might well be the case here.


It certainly seems that you can stun yourself by using this feat. That is probably an oversight but then again I'm not sure.

It has to be an oversight. A feat where, if the dice roll badly, you're standing there stunned and your opponents are not? That would be kinda nuts, and not in the good way.

Doug M.

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Lemmy wrote:
Sounds like "Why the hell is this a feat? Does that mean I can't get a circumstance bonus to an Intimidate check by breaking the wall with my fist? WTF?"

I agree. In fact, a problem with the feat mechanic generally is that it seems to suck designers into making things feats. You should be able to at least attempt cool stuff without having to pay a feat tax. If smashing things can give you a bonus, make that a game rule. Then add a feat to make it more effective, like how Crane Style makes fighting defensively more effective.

Doug M.

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Let's note that the 3/4 BAB characters could have some fun with this too. A Bard or Rogue swinging through the window -- Crash! -- would be situational as hell. But when it comes together? The stuff of gaming memories.

Doug M.

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They had me at "or wall".

Doug M.

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Zahir ibn Mahmoud ibn Jothan wrote:
Stunning your allies might tick them off.

Presumably they are behind you. "Bob goes in first. Bob *likes* going in first."

Doug M.

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From Champions of Corruption:


Stunning Irruption (Combat)

When you smash your way into a room, you gain more than just the element of surprise.

Prerequisites: Str 15, Power Attack, base attack bonus +5.

Benefit: Before starting combat, you can attempt to break through a door, window, or wall to enter a room. If you succeed, the violence of your arrival is so great that all characters within 20 feet of your entry point must succeed at a Fortitude saving throw (DC = 10 + your base attack bonus) or be stunned instead of acting in the surprise round (if there is one) plus 1 round thereafter. Characters who succeed at this save are instead shaken for 1d4 rounds.

Yes: after 15 years, 3.x finally has a game mechanism that rewards you for kicking in the door.

Doug M.

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Okay, just for laughs I took the standard vanilla 8th level sorceror vampire from the original Bestiary and hit her with the full impact of the Hunger rules. She's been locked inside a tomb for a hundred years or something, yes? Well, here's what she'd look like when she got out.

Effects of maximum hunger: -4 Channel Resistance, -5 Will saves, -10 (!) Str and Cha, -8 DR, -4 Fast Healing, -8 Disguise (because the creature is emaciated and obviously undead).

* * * * *

Female human vampire sorcerer 8
CE Medium undead (augmented humanoid)
Init +8; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +21

So far, so good -- no change to any of this.


AC 23, touch 17, flat-footed 18 (+2 deflection, +4 Dex, +1 dodge, +6 natural)
hp 62 (8d6+32); fast healing 1 A big hit here, down from hp 102 and fast healing 5
Fort +13, Ref +11, Will +7 -5 Will
Defensive Abilities channel resistance 0; DR 2/magic and silver; Immune undead traits; Resist cold 10, electricity 10 channel resistance is completely gone, and DR drops from 10 to 2.
Weaknesses vampire weaknesses


Speed 30 ft.
Melee slam +3 (1d4-1 plus energy drain) Wow, the slam attack is now almost useless except against very low level targets
Special Attacks blood drain, children of the night, create spawn, dominate (DC 17), energy drain (2 levels, DC 17) and -5 on the DCs is hurting here too.
Bloodline Spell-Like Ability (CL 8th, +7 touch)

6/day—grave touch

Sorcerer Spells Known (CL 8th, +8 ranged touch)

4th (3/day)—greater invisibility
3rd (3/day)—dispel magic, fireball (DC 16), vampiric touch
2nd (6/day)—false life, invisibility, scorching ray, web (DC 15)
1st (6/day)—burning hands (DC 14), chill touch (DC 14), disguise self, expeditious retreat, mage armor, magic missile
0—acid splash, detect magic, light, mage hand, mending, message, open/close, read magic

Bloodline undead

The -10 hit to Cha really stings here. She does still have a bunch of non-DC spells to work with, though, so she's not completely helpless.


Str 6, Dex 18, Con —, Int 14, Wis 16, Cha 16
Base Atk +4; CMB +2; CMD 19

Now here's where it gets interesting. To recover full strength, she needs a blood meal. But to get that, she must either grapple someone or double-Dominate them. Her CMB is so miserably low now that grappling is problematic, and her Dominate DCs are no great shakes either.

Feats: Alertness, Blind-Fight, Combat Casting, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Eschew Materials, Extend Spell, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Silent Spell, Still Spell, Toughness, Weapon Finesse

Skills Bluff +22, Knowledge (arcana) +13, Knowledge (religion) +10, Perception +21, Sense Motive +13, Spellcraft +13, Stealth +12, Use Magic Device +14; Racial Modifiers +8 Bluff,+8 Perception, +8 Sense Motive, +8 Stealth No damage here except to Bluff and UMD.

Other Vampire Stuff: No change except that her Dominate DC drops from a scary 23 to a rather less scary 18.

Special: Anytime she comes within 10 feet of a helpless creature that can sate her desire, she must make a DC 23 Will save. Failure means she falls upon the helpless creature—whether friend or foe— and attempts to consume or drain it. Until she has fed, she can take no action other than to feed from this helpless creature. During this feeding frenzy, she takes a –2 penalty to her AC.

* * * * *

Okay, so. She started at CR 9. What would her CR be now? Eyeballing, she looks about CR 7 to me -- an interesting encounter for a group of 5th level PCs, or a very challenging one for a 3rd level group.

Now, from a tactical POV, her best bet is to go gaseous, escape, and find some helpless child or commoner to feed on. But if this is made difficult or impossible for some reason (or if she's presented with that helpless victim), then I could see a really fun encounter here.


Doug M.

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The undead Hunger rules from Blood of the Night don't seem to get a lot of love. That's a pity, because they're pretty cool. (They can be found here -- scroll down a couple of screens.)

1) Hungry undead get weaker in pretty much every way. So, an undead that has missed a few meals will be at -1 to Str and Cha, -1 channel resistance, -2 to Will saves, -2 to DR, and so forth. A vampire that's been locked in a room for a hundred years will be at -10 (!) to Str and Cha, -8 to DR, and like that.

It occurs to me that this could be used as an interesting CR modifier, and also to set up some fun/challenging scenarios. So, the party of 8th level PCs opens the tomb and unleashes a 12th level antipaladin vampire -- normally a CR 13 creature, so a terrifying opponent and a possible TPK. But he's been down that hole so long that he's greatly weakened and is really only CR 10 or so... until he feeds. So they have to kill him, fast, before he can get that first blood meal.

Has anyone done something like this? I can't recall seeing it in any Paizo product.

2) On the flip side, undead get a +1 to Will saves for an hour after feeding, and also get +2 to saves of all sorts against creatures of the same alignment. (They don't stack, alas.) This is nicely thematic! It explains why vampires love snacking on the innocent and goodly: it gives them save bonuses against those good-aligned clerics and paladins. And while the bonus isn't quite big enough to give a CR adjustment, it's a minor but useful buff that could lead to some interesting tactical situations: the BBEG keeping a couple of good-aligned victims close at hand to toss to the ghouls as an emergency buff, and like that.

Has anyone used these rules, at all?

Doug M.

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Kryptik wrote:

It is interesting to note a certain amount of bias in the assumption that because I am a DM, I must have been abusing the poor players.

Kryptik, if you hang around tabletop gaming forums for a while you'll find that this is always the case. I don't mean that most people will draw this conclusion! Most will not. But there will always be a small but energetic minority who will respond WHY ARE YOU PUNISHING THE PLAYERS!?

Has one player come up with a clever build that's mowing down your monsters, and you're posting to ask for a way to respond? Nine out of ten posters will respond helpfully and constructively, but one guy will assume right away that YOU WANT TO PUNISH YOUR PLAYERS. Is one player doing something that's incredibly annoying and disrupting the game? Nine posters will offer helpful suggestions, but the tenth guy (it's always a guy) will want to know WHY ARE YOU PUNISHING HIM FOR HAVING FUN? Have your players developed a tactic that's going to ruin the awesome boss fight you have planned, and you want advice on how to fix the boss so she doesn't go down like a chump in Round One? YOU ARE PUNISHING YOUR PLAYERS FOR BEING CLEVER.

I don't know why this happens, but it does. It's not unique to Paizo -- I've seen it happen on Usenet and several other forums. There's no point in getting angry about it.

Doug M.

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"What kind of creatures are we? I told you -- we are the Poimenikoi, the Shepherds.

"The world needs predators to keep it in balance. And what predator is more perfect than the spider? Hunger distilled into beauty, the joyful architecture of the web, the absolute stillness of the ambush, the perfect arc of the leap. But the predators themselves must be watched, sometimes cared for and sometimes culled.

"There's a story that long ago, the spiders of the Underdark fell under the sway of a Demon Queen. And the dark elves who served Her made the spiders their servants and steeds, their pets and playthings. And they awakened some of the spiders to thought and speech, the better to serve. And in time, they gave the very cleverest of these thinking spiders the ability to take a shape like their own, and walk among them. For they were masters of the flesh and the shaping of the flesh, and this amused them greatly. And these, some say, were the first Shepherds, servants of the dark elves who were servants of the Queen.

"But the Shepherds did not share the cruelty and wickedness of their masters. They only wanted what was best for their kin. For even though they had thought and speech, still there was the bond of blood and silk. And they saw that their masters were mad.

"So they rebelled, and fled with their herds and flocks to the green forests of the Overlight. The dark elves pursued them, and many died. Some of the flocks were recaptured, and their children serve the dark elves yet. But many escaped, and have dwelt in the world above for long these many years. Not in peace, for the spider does not know peace. But in freedom, and in balance.

"Or so some say. That is a very old tale, and if it is true I do not know.

"We are the Shepherds."

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From the new Guide to the Harrow comes the Sczarni swindler rogue archetype, which includes this class ability:


Let Fate Decide (Ex): At 1st level, the Sczarni swindler can declare two different actions that rely on different types of rolls or checks, such as attacking a creature (an attack roll) or sneaking past the same creature (a Stealth check). As a standard action, the swindler then uses a random method to choose one of the declared activities, such as flipping a coin, rolling a die, or drawing a harrow card. The specific method doesn’t matter as long as there is an equal chance of either activity being chosen. If the swindler then performs the chosen activity within the next round, she gains a luck bonus on the roll type required for that activity — attack rolls with a specific weapon, a specific skill check, a specific ability check, or a specific saving throw — equal to half her rogue level (minimum +1) for 1 minute. If the swindler performs any other action (whether declared or not) in the round after using this ability, she becomes shaken for 1 minute instead. The swindler can use this ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + her Charisma modifier. This ability replaces trapfinding.

Now this is the sort of flavorful-as-hell thing that I wish Paizo would do more of. Try to disable the trap, or just dodge its effect? Coup-de-Grace the captive, or set him free with a Diplomacy roll? It's not all that powerful in game terms -- the fact that it's a standard action really nerfs it for most purposes -- and I could wish it were a little more clearly written, but it's /cool/. You read it and you're like, okay, I would play this archetype just so I could go around flipping my lucky gold piece.

Anyway, I just wanted to put this out here: can anyone think of particularly clever ways to use this? It seems like it should be moderately exploitable... anyone?

Doug M.

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The dart punches into the side of the little man's neck. He turns to snarl at Ulp. "Gerroff, yer feckin' lizard! I'll show yer what... I..." He reaches up to the side of his neck and pulls the bloody dart free. "I... He suddenly wobbles, then staggers. "Is it... errrr... huh..." He takes several steps in a half circle. "Huh... halftime?"

And then, quite abruptly, he falls over.

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Unless you are willing to crawl down there in single file to confront him in his lair, it looks like stalemate. Oh, for a scroll of Cloudkill.

What's with the singing, anyway?:

Many of the nastier fey play a version of Celtic Rules Football, using the severed head of an enemy as the ball. Of all of them, the redcaps are by far the most ardent fans. They don't play so much, but they love gathering into crowds to drink, chant, break glass, chant, drink, and stomp in the heads of rival fans. In fact, the game is really just a prelude for the beloved postgame brawl -- the bigger, bloodier and more brutal, the better. The more civilized fey tolerate this because it distracts the redcaps and keeps their numbers down.

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Okay, going to post some excerpts from my guides here. You can find the different pieces by searching, like so.

Entering the Diabolist class:

Entering this class after 5th level, while legal, is not as easy as it might seem. You'll need to buy a scroll of Lesser Planar Binding and probably a scroll of Magic Circle Against Evil as well. Assuming the scroll was cast at 9th level, you'll need to make a DC 10 caster level check, meaning you'll make it on a 5 or higher -- 80% of the time. But then the conjured devil must fail its Will save; must also fail a special Cha check (DC 15 + 1/2 your level + your Cha modifier); and then lose to you on an opposed Cha check to be forced into service. For this reason, you should swallow your pride and summon a lemure (+0 Will save, 5 Cha) instead of something like an imp (+4 Will save, 14 Cha). Yes, the imp is much cooler. But the lemure is much less likely to make its Will save or Cha check and disappear amidst a cloud of brimstone and a peal of mocking laughter, leaving you with a botched conjuration and a couple of painfully expensive wasted scrolls. So go with the lemure -- you'll be calling up cool things soon enough.

If you think you can hack it, go for it at 6th level. But starting the class at 7th is also okay. If you're going to wait until 8th, then -- as a wizard -- you might as well wait until 9th, since 8th level will give you a wizard school power.

Building towards a Diabolist:

Skills: Like most Paizo PrCs, the Diabolist is skill-starved, with a miserable 2+Int points per level. So if you're not an Int-based caster, and not human, you're going to be placing every skill rank with exquisite care. Here are some of the skills you may want to consider.

Spellcraft -- You need three ranks of this to enter the class. But keep piling on the ranks, because you have to make that DC 20 Spellcraft check every time you conjure something. (You can take 20, but then you're on your knees with that stupid powdered silver all the dang morning.) Once you hit 12th or 13th level and can consistently get +19 before buffs, you can ignore this.

Knowledge (Planes) -- You need five ranks of this to enter the class. After that... well, technically, you need this in order to make Knowledge checks about the creatures you conjure. As a practical matter, let's face it, you're going to have the stats for bearded devils memorized PDQ once you start running around with them. But this still gets a thumbs up, because you never know when the DM is going to throw you a curve with some bizarre new sort of outsider. Also, you can use it to research true names, which is a thing you should do.

Knowledge (Religion) -- You need five ranks of this to enter the class. Once you've got that, unless you're a cleric, walk away and never look back.

Diplomacy -- This skill works on evil outsiders just like everything else. And after all, you don't WANT to fill up the Outer Planes with creatures who nurse festering hatred and resentment towards you. As a practical matter, at the end of their service you want them reasonably content -- or dead. So dropping a rank or two in this isn't a waste, especially if you don't have a "face" character around to help you. And, hey, it's a class skill for Diabolists.

Intimidate -- The way this skill is structured makes it less useful to you than Diplomacy. Avoid.

Ride -- What is this doing here? It's not a class skill for diabolist, nor for any class that's likely to become a diabolist. On the other hand, there are a few conjurable outsiders that can be ridden. If you like the idea of commanding your fiendish minions from the back of a rearing nightmare, throw a rank or two at this.

Sense Motive -- Believe it or not, evil outsiders are not always perfectly forthright and honest when dealing with the spellcasters who are binding them to service. Catching one of your devils in a dangerous half-truth could be a literal lifesaver. Put some ranks into this, and use it regularly.

Bluff -- Lying to devils is probably not a great long-term strategy; at higher levels, too many of these guys have sky-high Sense Motive skills. But you may conjure up things other than devils, after all. Elementals, for instance, have zero Sense Motive, which means that even powerful ones are painfully easy to fool. And at midlevels, this can actually be quite useful even with devils. "Yes, I conjured you up to be my bodyguard going into the Temple of Horrendous Doom. A formality, really -- it's almost certainly entirely safe." If you manage to fool the creature, you should get be able to lie your way to a better check DC. (Of course, if you fail, you should get the worst DC possible.) This skill is also very useful if the campaign takes you into regions where devil-summoning is viewed askance. "No, I'm an optometrist actually."

If you can cover these and still have ranks left over, spend on skills as for a normal PC -- Perception, Knowledges, what have you.

Feats: If you're playing a blast-y Diabolist, then go and look at some of the guides for blasters. No rush, we'll wait. Meanwhile, here are some other feats you'll want to consider.

Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration -- Is this even a question? Not only will you regularly be dealing with evil outsiders, but you'll inevitably sometimes be giving some of them reason to hate you. And spell resistance is one way a called creature can break out of your circle. You absolutely must have these feats. The only question is when to take them. I'd recommend taking SP at either 7th or 9th level, and GSP no later than 13th.

Spell Focus (Conjuration) -- You want this to crank up the Will save DCs on your Planar Bindings, especially at higher levels. And at middle levels there are lots of perfectly excellent spells that it works with, including web, glitterdust, sleet storm, hungry pit, and cloudkill. Take this at 3rd or 5th level and you'll get lots of use out of it.

Leadership -- If the other PCs aren't forthcoming with help in your conjuring rituals, go and get it yourself. See below for discussion of how this can play out.

Craft Wand -- Take this if you're doing the "wand-wielding imp companion" thing; you'll save a lot of money.

Extend Spell -- Consider either this feat or a Rod of Lesser Metamagic (Extend). The Rod is less of an investment and is probably your better bet, but OTOH this is one of the better metamagic feats... anyway: you want this at levels below 11th, so that you can cast buff spells with a duration that's longer than the casting time of your Planar Binding (10 minutes). Cast Extended Eagle's Splendor at 9th level, and you now have another +2 on your opposed Charisma checks (and on your Bluff and Diplomacy rolls, too, if you're going that route) all through the casting and for 8 minutes beyond. And then cast Extended Protection From Evil and Extended Shield on yourself and any helpers, just in case things go terribly wrong.

Wizard Schools and Spells:

If you're a wizard, what schools are good, and what spells should you take?

Abjuration -- This is a weak school for most purposes, but for a Diabolist it's actually okay. You're going to be taking a lot of abjuration spells anyway. And if you take the banishment subschool, at 8th level you get the Aura of Banishment, which from your POV is a highly desirable safety buff. (Of course, this means you have to be a wizard for eight levels before starting on Diabolist.)

Conjurer -- Obvious, right? The Infernal Binder subschool, while not as great as you might hope, is pretty good for you... +3 to Knowledge (Planes), the chance to grab other peoples' summoned monsters, and an imp familiar. (Once you get the imp companion you end up with an imp on each shoulder. One serves you, the other serves Hell.) The teleportation subschool is also fine, though limited by the fact that it uses wizard levels, so your dimension door power will probably never get beyond 15'.

Divination -- This is almost worth taking just for the Prescience power of the Foresight subschool. You get to double-roll every Cha check, and things like rolls to overcome SR as well. This is huge. Throw in the ability to act in a surprise round and a nice little Init bonus, and this school is surprisingly strong for you. Of course, now you have to be a Diviner and take a bunch of Divination spells. Nothing's perfect.

Enchantment -- Not a strong school for a class that's blasting a lot and dealing with creatures with SR and high Will saves. Still, unlike most wizards you actually use Bluff and Diplomacy.

Evocation -- A fine school for you. The Admixture subschool is great for a blaster, and you'll end up with five types instead of four.

Illusion -- Thematic, but not a good choice mechanically. None of the school or subschool powers will help you do what you do best.

Necromancy -- See Illusion.

Transmutation -- +2 to Con or Dex by the time you become a Diabolist is pretty sweet. Then you take the Enhancement subschool and use Augment to buff your minions. If you take 8 levels of wizard, then the Perfection of Self power -- +4 to any stat for one round -- has all kinds of uses; check if your DM will allow it to affect opposed Cha checks.

Spells -- This is a partial list of spells that are likely to be of interest to you.

Level 1

Protection from Evil/whatever -- Kind of a no-brainer.

Level 2

Eagle's Splendor -- Once you're 11th level (or 6th with Extend Spell) you can cast this before casting Planar Binding and get the benefit of it on Cha checks.
Fox's Cunning -- As Eagle's Splendor if you're an Int-based caster.
Misdirection -- If you're living someplace where having an evil aura is an issue.
Owl's Wisdom -- As Eagle's Splendor if you're a Wis-based caster.
See Invisibility -- Many devils can go invisible at will. Once you have the money, pay the 5,000 gp to have Permanency cast so you have this at all times.

Level 3

Agonize -- A spell to punish outsiders that... allows SR and a Fort save, which is most outsiders' best save. Still, worth a try, especially as it's the only spell that specifically addresses this need for you.
Haste -- I hate this spell; it's way overpowered for third level, which is why everyone uses it. Nonetheless, if you're leading a bunch of called creatures into battle, it's a very useful tactical mass buff.
Magic Circle Against Evil/whatever -- You must have this spell.
Protection from Energy -- Get it if you're regularly conjuring elementals or other creatures that use a particular energy attack.

Level 4

Enervation -- A fine spell for dealing with difficult outsiders. You did take Spell Penetration, right?
Dimensional Anchor -- You must have this spell.
Lesser Planar Binding -- You must have this spell.
Scrying -- If you're sending your conjured creatures out on missions, you'll want to be able to keep track of them. Make sure you get a toenail clipping or something.

Level 5

Planar Adaptation -- If you're planning to visit Hell at some point.
Planar Binding -- You must have this spell.
Dismissal -- This should be a great spell, but is merely an okay one, because it is affected by SR and also grants a Will save. That said, if something gets loose, this is a spell to have ready.

Level 6
Antimagic Field -- Works on summoned creatures but not conjured ones.
Geas-Quest -- SR but *no* saving throw. Use this to make sure your creatures are staying in line, especially the high Will-save ones.
Contingency -- At 15th level, this can be used to auto-teleport you away from danger. At lower levels, it can be used to auto-activate a range of buffs and other helpful effects.
Legend Lore -- You can use this to get information on named individual outsiders.

Level 7

Banishment -- More powerful version of Dismissal.
Greater Planar Binding -- You must have this spell.
Teleport Trap -- If you've made some enemies among outsiders (and by this point in your career, you probably have) cast this on your living quarters every couple of weeks. Be creative about what's waiting at the destination, but a permanent Alarm spell and some symbols or other outsider-affecting magical traps are probably good.
Trap the Soul -- Not actually that great unless you know the creature's name, or have lots and lots of money to burn on gems that shatter when the spell fails.

Level 8

Binding -- A powerful bargaining tool. I'd rule that the demonstrated ability to bind outsiders of a particular type would give you a bonus on your Cha checks against outsiders of that same type -- "Do you want to end up like Bob here?" Check whether your DM agrees.
Dimensional Lock -- If you're high enough level, and don't care about whatever attention the "shimmering emerald barrier" attracts, cast this periodically to ward your quarters against unwanted visitors from other planes.
Euphoric Tranquility -- No Will save! Does get SR, unfortunately.
Moment of Prescience -- Win that Cha check!
Polar Ray -- Swap in hellfire to make this a very flexible ranged touch attack.
Sympathy -- If you cast this on your conjuring area, it can make the called creature happy to be there; I'd rule that this would move its attitude a step or two to the better. Unfortunately the creature gets a Will save and SR too.

Level 9


Your Imp Companion:

The imp companion is one of the most popular class features of the Diabolist class, and with good reason. The imp is a useful tool to begin with – it can fly, turn invisible at will, is telepathic, has constant detect good and detect magic, and a number of useful SLAs including augury once/day and commune (6 questions) once/week. This alone makes it an excellent companion for low and mid-level PCs. But the diabolist’s imp scales with level – it gains HD, feats, skills, and new SLAs as you level up. And it advances according to your combined caster + diabolist levels. (Under the RAW, you could argue that it your diabolist levels count double, since diabolist is a caster class -- in other words, that a wizard 5 / diabolist 5 would get a level 15 imp familiar. But this seems to be one of the rare cases where sloppy language made it past Paizo editing. A companion who advances with your level is plenty good enough. Don't be greedy.)

One popular option is to give the imp a wand and useit to make wand attacks. Activating a wand is a DC 20 Use Magic Device check, with +2 on the check if the user has activated that particular device before. UMD is not a class skill for imps, and the creature’s Cha is only 14. So, if you want your imp to fly around delivering wand attacks, it may be worth investing one of the creature’s feats in Skill Focus: Use Magical Device. The DC does not scale with the power of the wand, so you can equip the imp with a “golf bag” of wands of various levels (fireball, grease, etc.) for use as needed. If you’re going this route, investing a feat of your own in Craft Wand is recommended.

Whether you go this route or not, make sure you have your imp cast augury and commune regularly – knowledge is power, and these are very useful spells.

CAUTION: Do not use your imp as a wand platform until its UMD bonus is up to at least +10, as otherwise you are in danger of a wand mishap – i.e., the imp fireballing your party instead of the enemy.

NOTE: If you lose your imp companion, the ritual to get a new one takes 24 hours of your time, but costs NO money. That’s right – replacing your imp is absolutely free! So unless you’re up against a clock with no chance to take a day off, don’t be shy about putting your little buddy in harm’s way… he’s expendable. Hard cheese for him but, hey, that’s life in Hell. And, really, what's more fun than greeting your new companion with a friendly, "I hope you don't fail me as pathetically as your late predecessor"?

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Also -- does he have a bound object? If yes, then you need to find a way for the succubus (or someone under her influence) to steal it. And at the worst possible moment. If he has a familiar instead, then right after the big reveal, you should have the familiar's voice speak in his head. "Master! Help me, Master! Something is -- " And then it's cut off. And then a moment later, the stone statue that is the familiar -- petrified, of course -- falls out of the air to land at the Magister's feet... crash.

Actually, now that I think of it, petrifying people close to the Magister and then smashing them could be a recurring theme.

Doug M.

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Good point about using the Profane Gift to give Suggestions from a distance. So you could totally work this as "every night he makes three saves, and if one is failed, he writes in his diary". That's fair under RAW and it's also nice and simple.

But I think it's more fun (if more complicated!) if the succubus can get close to him and become someone he likes and trusts. It's not necessary, but it will crank up the drama for the big reveal. (And it also means she can be privy to all sorts of other secrets.)

As always, season to taste.

Doug M.

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Don't forget that the wizard gets a saving throw. Now, if she casts it on him while he's sleeping, you could reasonably say she just zaps him two or three times until it gets through. (And IMO a sleeping character wouldn't notice something being cast on him.)

You'll need a good cover ID for the succubus. "Lady So-and-so is an ambitious, intelligent young woman. She's the widow of a knight who got killed doing something or other, leaving her a modest estate. Make her short and blonde. (Nobody suspects a petite blonde of evil.)

You'll have to season the approach to fit your player and his PC, but I'd do it like this: (1) introduce her in some way that will make the PC like her... she brings him evidence of a minor but obnoxious conspiracy against him, or some such. (2) Emphasize that she's attractive, intelligent, ambitious, and poor-ish. (3) Give him the opportunity to hit that. (4) Have her make him a business proposition -- in character -- that goes something like this: "Last night was great, Bob. Now listen. You'll need a Queen; that's not me, I'm not high enough nobility. But you'll also need a Royal Mistress, and I'd be absolutely outstanding at that. I'm good at reading people, and I'm loyal. Courts can be snake pits. Take me on, and I'll watch your back." Or something like that -- you know best what will appeal to your PC.

A couple of tips. One, introduce her gradually (if time allows). If you throw this NPC at the PCs and spend a LOT of time with her all at once, it could be suspicious, so try to spin it out a bit. Two, give her a clear persona _in game terms_ -- like, she's an Aristocrat 3 / Rogue 3, or something like that. Have her act into that, visibly making skill checks on Bluff or Sense Motive or Knowledge, so that the PCs can interpret her actions that way. Three, note that the sex is great, but don't dwell too much on that -- you want the PC smug and happy, but you don't want him thinking Super Freaky, because that might turn his thoughts towards "succubus". Pitch the great sex as one part of an overall excellent package.

Finally, give her a chance to prove herself in a way that emphasizes that she's around the PC all night most nights. Have the PC offend some minor but self-important knight or noble. (Do this in a way that makes it the noble's fault, not the PC's -- Sir So-and-so is a pompous buffoon who believes his blue blood makes him superior, the kingdom is better off once he's dismissed.) Then set up a crude assassination attempt, with a couple of low-level rogues sneaking into the PC's bedchamber. Have him suddenly awaken to find himself under attack -- and his near-naked mistress (who woke up before him, so gets to act on the surprise round) throwing herself in front of him to take the assassin's sneak attack! Blood everywhere, but she's alive and screaming and has pulled out a dagger from somewhere to defend him, and -- now be a jerk and, if he tries to spellcast, ask him nastily if he takes his spell components to bed; you have a pouch of bat guano around your neck while you're making love to your mistress? I don't think so, Bob. Okay, it's on the night table, that's a standard action to pick it up, that's your move, now their turn, they're trying to flank you -- and you run a little combat, but of course in the end the assassins are easily fended off. And there she is, wrapped in a bloody sheet, tottering from loss of blood (poor thing, a hit that did just 12 points of damage left her hardly able to stand) -- but triumphant. "I said I would... watch your back... my King."

Of course she set the whole thing up with clever Suggestions and slander, but she's bright enough to have hidden her tracks. And while the PC is busy setting up defenses around his sleeping quarters, he's going to make sure that she's inside it with him...


Doug M.

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Mikhail wrote:

So what our little ambitious Magister do? He conspires with another player (lets name him Tick) who plays an assassin, and pays him to permamently exterminate lady Katrina. It's a success, the old ruler is dead, let's live the new ruler?!

Sounds like someone has been watching Game of Thrones!


1) Can she use her Suggestion to make her victim publicly admit he commited crimes?

Let's go to the RAW. "You influence the actions of the target creature by suggesting a course of activity (limited to a sentence or two). The suggestion must be worded in such a manner as to make the activity sound reasonable. Asking the creature to do some obviously harmful act automatically negates the effect of the spell."

So. Can this suggestion be made in a sentence or two? Sure. Can it be worded in such a way as to make the activity sound reasonable? That's a judgment call, though I'd guess probably yes. Is this an 'obviously harmful act'? Well, that's trickier. If the enraged crowd is going to tear the wizard to pieces, and he knows this, then clearly the Suggestion won't work. OTOH, if all it does is ruin his reputation and trash the kingdom's morale, I'd allow it. Being embarrassed, even humiliated, is not harmful.

Also, note the weasel word -- "obviously" harmful. You can make a victim do things that are harmful, as long as it's not obvious to them. So, you could Suggest they go and stand on that X. If the victim does not know that X marks a trap door that will drop him 100' into a spiked pit, the Suggestion will seem reasonable under the RAW and he'll do it. By the same token, even if the victim's secret is incredibly destructive and harmful to him, you could Suggest that the victim tell his secret to Bob -- when you know (but the victim does not) that Bob will promptly tell the world. Or you could Suggest that he write it in a diary, and then steal the diary. And so forth.


2) Could she Suggest him in his sleep, without his knowledge to act as suggested only when he'll be crowned? (this will be a trigger to act)

Yes, you could, but only subject to the one hour/level limit. So you'd probably need the caster to be in bed with the victim, so as to cast before he wakes up in the morning. Given that the caster is a succubus, this doesn't seem impossible.


3) Is it a harmful act? (which breaks Suggestion) We are talking political suicide here.

Ending a political career _by itself_ is not harm. If it also causes people to attack him, or has him put on trial for murder with the hangman's noose if he is convicted, it's harm. So, if you want to pull this off, you want to structure it for maximum humiliation (and PC frustration), minimal chance of actually hurting the PC.

Doug M.

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A few minutes of searching turns nothing up. The pond is deep but there doesn't seem to be anything in it. The Guardian liked it as a decorative pond: he would stand and stare for hours, admiring the play of light on the water and the delicate balance of the pocket ecosystem, algae and tadpole, dragonfly and beetle. It would bring him deep serenity to contemplate the ebb and flow of life through the food web and its changes with the turning seasons, all things taking their place in the Great Circle of so annoying wow you are really glad you killed that stupid thing. Burn it with fire and let's move on.

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Cantrip, so endlessly spammable by various classes. It's basically a magic walkie-talkie with a range of 100' + 10' level. It's blocked by the usual stuff (lead, stone) but can go around corners and through small openings. The tactical advantages are pretty huge -- coordinating attacks, most obviously, but also getting information back from your stealthy scout who's100' further up the corridor, feeding information from around a corner to a party member who's running a Bluff... you name it. My players have come to say "Message is up" or "I have Message on" pretty much as a matter of reflex before every encounter, which is always a good indicator that something is overpowered.

I'm finding this annoying in two ways. One, it's just way overpowered for a cantrip. Cantrips shouldn't affect gameplay in this way, and they shouldn't regularly give players significant tactical advantages. If it were a first level spell, I could see it. Or if the range were short (25' + 5'/2 levels), perhaps. But in its current form, it's much too good for a zero level spell.

Two, it's flattening the game tactically by making the battlespace completely transparent -- what one PC knows, they all know. There's no more "Bob sees the monster, but the rest of you don't", or "Alice has fallen down the pit and is facing the zombies at the bottom; Alice, do you try to fight the zombies alone, try to climb out of the pit, or yell for help and risk alerting the lizardman guards?" Those are classic situations that have been rendered obsolete by the introduction of Message. The result is a slight but noticeable increase in the level of abstraction in combat and play.

Am I the only one who feels this way? What do the rest of you think? Are your PCs all throwing Message as well?

Doug M.

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There's a little doll carved out of wood with a gourd for a head. If an NPC is accompanying the PCs, the NPC has the doll. If not, someone gives it to a PC as a gift. The doll has a minor variant of a Magic Mouth spell cast on it: it recites a handful of preset phrases. The spell will wear off after a day, at which point the doll becomes an ordinary doll. Meanwhile, the doll pipes up once every minute or so, reciting random phrases in a squeaky, perky little voice:

"Kenabres, widely known as the jewel of western Mendev, was founded in 3382!"

"Today's weather forecast is sunny and warm, with light breezes from the northwest. It's a beautiful day for a festival!"

"The wardstones protect our country against the terrors of the Worldwound!"

"The Sisters of Holiness welcome your contributions!" (The dolls are free handouts for the pilgrim trade, but their creation is funded in part by paid ads...)

"It's a beautiful day for a festival!"

"Help keep Kenabres clean!"

You can use this to slip in some background facts. Try to strike a balance between the doll being annoying (it should occasionally repeat itself) and it being amusing / interesting. It doesn't do anything else but recite its facts at semi-random intervals every minute or so. Interrupt your narrative from time to time to suddenly remind the PCs that it's a beautiful day for a festival!

And then, right after the explosion... the doll /screams/. A horrible, high-pitched inhuman "eeeeeeeeeee". And then -- in a horrible dead voice -- it starts to recite "Wardstone failure. Wardstone failure. Wardstone failure." In the middle of everything else, with the dragon fighting the fiend and all, mention that the doll's gourd head is starting to rotate slowly, around and around, and whitish fluid is pouring out of its little carved eyes and mouth. If that doesn't freak the PCs enough to hurl it away, have twisted, gnarled roots start sprouting from its little wooden body and trying to grow their way into the PC's hand. (Not a real threat -- you're trying to alarm and disgust the PCs, not seriously hurt them.)

And later, once they're down at the bottom, you can mention that there's a faint whispering little voice, slowly running down and fading out: "Wardstone... failure... ward... stone..." If they search, they can find the hideously deformed remains of the doll crushed under a bit of fallen stone.

Doug M.

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