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Douglas Muir 406's page

8,324 posts. 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.


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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.

Quote:

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.

cheers,

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.

Quote:

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:

Quote:

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.

DEFENSE

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

OFFENSE

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.

STATISTICS

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.

Thoughts?

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:

Quote:


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

Gate

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...

Thoughts?

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!

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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.

Quote:


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.

Quote:

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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Please do not ask your DM about the hideous crimes of Count Gaspard, or why the gnome Woddam is being sought with fire and sword up and down the length of the kingdom. Yes, I know, and yes, you'll find out more if these things ever become relevant. But at some point we have to move away from ever more detailed descriptions of the setting and start actually advancing the plot. Even I have my limits. So, please, just nod and sip some brandy and move on.


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Don't be greedy. nat 20s are nice, but they don't mean you get answers to everything.


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Well, Enver's staff -- sorry, Raisa's staff -- is a pretty powerful item. And I'm willing to award good RPing, which this certainly is. Still thinking about how to play this.


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Farholde's base value is 4,400 gp. For magic items with a retail price under that amount, the base chance for finding the item available is 75%. If it's an arcane item with a retail price over half that amount (2,200) the likelihood drops to 50%. For the next month, the availability of all items with potential military use is reduced by 20% because of the military making purchases before going off to the new war. Low rolls good:

for Dren

Rod of Extend, lesser 1d100 ⇒ 82 Nope. Wizard stuff. Not much call for that here.
Inviso Purge 375gp 1d100 ⇒ 6 Yep, in stock.
Lesser Restoration 150gp 1d100 ⇒ 49 Yes.

for the Judge

Amulet of Mighty Fists 1d100 ⇒ 66 No. They had one in stock for years, then some damn officer snapped it up last week. What, he's going to punch the bugbears to death?
Cloak of Protection +1 1d100 ⇒ 77 Oh, those sold out. They're good against evil magic and dragons, you know. Do the bugbears have dragons with them? Well, you never know.
Handy Haversack 1d100 ⇒ 9 Oh certainly! We have one right here.


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So, there's another sale. By itself no big thing -- Paizo has one every few months. But this time, a bunch of 3PPs have joined in. That's less common. It leads to the reasonable question: what here is a real jewel that shouldn't be missed? And what is there that is intriguing, but you'd like to know more? Here, I'll start:

Shouldn't be missed (Paizo): The Hangman's Noose, by Nicholas Logue. One of Nicholas Logue's best works, and also one of his most underappreciated. A horror-mystery for first level characters (!). 3.5 but converts easily. You can buy the hard copy for an astonishing $2 -- I'd guess Paizo wants to free up some warehouse space, and is trying to move the 3.5 stuff. Very strongly recommended.

Shouldn't be missed (3PP): Panataxia was a steal at $4 and is even more so at $3. It's a terrific planar adventure... for 2nd level characters. And it works really, really well. The encounters are either level-appropriate, or they provide various ways for intelligent players to deal with them. And it's engaging and interesting, and written with a real sense of fun. I'd also recommend Tales of the Old Margreve, which is a collection of short adventures of varying level along with various other stuff, including a really interesting forest that's part setting, part NPC. TotOM is set in Kobold Press' Midgard world, but adapts easily to pretty much any campaign.

I am curious: Razor Coast (Heart of the Razor) -- I'd like to check out Razor Coast, and three adventures for $14 seems like an okay deal. But do you need the main Razor Coast books to play these? And are they as good as you'd guess from the author's list? Also curious about the Fantasy Shards and Bits. It seems like a potentially nifty idea, but even with the discount some of these seem a little pricey. Are you really getting $7 worth of cool here?

Okay, over to you. What do you strongly recommend, and what would you like to know more about?

Doug M.


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1) What level are your PCs? Because a group of well built PCs of 14th level or higher will quickly locate this guy and take him down. No offense, but he has no ranged attacks and very mediocre Will and Fort saves. So once they find him (and with medium-level divination spells and skills, this shouldn't be a challenge), they stand off and zap him with ranged attacks and save-or-suck spells.

2) What's your intended role for this guy? BBEG at the end of a dungeon crawl? Secret mastermind behind an evil organization? Or just a Jack the Ripper type killer that the PCs must track down and defeat? -- If the latter, think long and hard first. You're setting up a detective/investigative/mystery type scenario, and those are much harder than they seem.

Doug M.


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As to stuff staying on this list, some of it is on there because nobody's buying it, and some is because they've gotten their hands on additional copies -- most likely by clawing them back from distributors, as Liz mentions above, but possibly by other means as well. They're not really under any obligation to tell us the gritty details of how they do business.

I don't pay much attention to these sales, myself -- at this point I've been hanging around Paizo for several years, and have bought most of what I'm likely to pick up from their back catalog. But they pretty clearly serve a useful function... you can see what's going away, whether quickly or slowly, and decide if you want to to snap it up. It seems odd to fault Paizo for doing this.

Doug M.


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There's a certain amount of free-floating entitlement out there. "It's your job to keep all your APs in print forever for my convenience!"

I have some issues with Paizo and their business model. But one of the things I really like about them is that they seem to be competent business people. Historically, that's been all too rare in the gaming industry.

As long as they stay in business, they can keep producing new stuff for our amusement and distraction. The current model of letting old APs gradually lapse out of print may not be perfect, but there are pretty clear and strong business-driven arguments for it, and it seems to have been working for them for (checks calendar) six, going on seven years now.

Doug M.


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The refugee column winds west and south beneath iron-grey skies.
There are perhaps three hundred people. Some have carts, some are on foot. Progress is slow. The rain has churned the road to mud. A cold wind blows from the north. Many of the refugees are not clothed for this weather. Others are wounded, traumatized. Soon, if they don’t find shelter, people will begin to die.

Miles to the north, a column of smoke is barely visible in the distance, a black column gradually merging with the grey of the clouds. To be on the road, cold and wet and muddy, without proper food or water, is terrible; but what is behind is far worse. Somewhere near the back of the column a child is crying, endlessly.

The refugees have no leader, but a priest of Mitra has been trying to organize things a little, distribute food, find clothes and blankets for the weakest and frailest. He trudges up and down the column, drenched and cold, mud up to his waist. He has only a few minor healing magics, and they have long since been used. He is very, very tired.

And then a voice speaks from the empty air. ”Father, I am told the Bright Lord counsels against despair. Behind these clouds, the sun still shines.”

The priest looks around in amazement. ”Who -- ? Ah!”

Nimpy Cleadhoe coalesces from thin air. He is hovering a couple of feet above the ground, so that his face is level with the cleric’s. In other times, the priest would be shocked and a little appalled at this display of magic – strange, perhaps diabolical! – but now he just feels a vague wonder.

”I scouted ahead, sir, as we discussed. Two miles up, there is a crossroads. Half a mile to the left is the manor house of Sir Monteith. He rode away to the war this morning, but I spoke with his lady and his seneschal are making ready. They can accommodate forty people.” The halfling nods at the column. ”Pick the sickest, worst injured, and most frail. Send them there. The others will have to continue on towards Elf Way. If they persevere, and the rain does not worsen, you can be in West Wapentak by nightfall. They should be able to take you all in, there. I will go ahead and tell them to make ready.”

A faint spark of hope flickers to life in the priest’s soul. A long day’s trudge in the rain… but food and shelter at the end of it. And the sick and injured taken care of, that terrible responsibility lifted. ”Halfling… thank you. Surely Mitra must have sent you to our aid!”

”What less could I do? We must all help each other, Father. Especially in these times.” Nimpy is not an adherent of the Mitran faith. But he is a deeply moral person, and since his escape from Captain Odenkirk his natural optimism and ebullience have slowly been returning. ”There are still hard times ahead. But if we hold together, we will bring each other through.” Nimpy rises a little higher into the air. ”And now, good Father, I must go.”

”Will we see you again, my son?”

”Who knows, Father? But not soon. I have a… duty, to attend to.” The halfling begins to fade from view again. (There would no real reason for this. The refugees are not paying attention, and they are crossing open countryside. There seems to be no one else around. But Nimpy has become very punctilious about using invisibility when coming or going. Nimpy has become very punctilious about a number of things, lately.) ”May your bright god bless and keep you, Father. Farewell.”

”Bless you, my son! Bless you!” But the halfling is gone.

Nimpy Cleadhoe, who has been an explorer and a singer, an adventurer and a teller of tales and a tormented captive of evil, flies west, unseen on the cold morning wind. He will stop briefly at the town and tell them to prepare. This band of refugees is just the first; many more will be coming. War has come to the North, and it will not be ended soon.

He will stop at the town… and then he will continue, south and west and south again. Nimpy knows much, has seen much. He was there at Balentyne, too late to help but not too late to watch. He knows that this invasion is no random eruption, but part of a long-conceived plan. And he knows much of that plan, now, and much of those who are carrying it out. Nimpy's eyes narrow against the cold wind. He had tried to convince them. Did he try hard enough? If he had been just a bit more determined, a bit more eloquent, could he have convinced Lord Havelyn and the others? Is this horror, to some extent, his fault? He shakes his head. There is no point in recriminations. But next time... To the south, in the capital, there are people who will be able to make use of his knowledge. This time, he will make sure they listen.

Nimply Cleadhoe flies onward to the west. And as he does so, far in the east behind him, the clouds part for a moment. The rising sun sends a long ray of golden light across the miles. It makes a path for him, bright and shining.


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Vamptastic wrote:

Alan Moore never jumped the shark.

[shrug] chaque a son gout. I thought LOEG: Century was a monument to self-indulgence -- "YOUR childhood media figure sucks, while MY childhood media figure is awesome!" -- and as for Neonomicon, least said better. But lots of people disagree, and anyway this is not the venue.

Quote:

Alan Moore is a CN role model.

"Brilliant, eccentric, extravagantly bearded wizard who prefers isolation and who, while not malevolent, has a truly legendary ability to hold grudges". Yeah, that could work. More of an NPC than a player character, but could work.

Doug M.


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MattR1986 wrote:
Players coming in disguised as CN so they can suddenly and unexpectedly go on murder sprees and play Pathfinder the Masquerade is not just detouring from railroading, it's dickish behavior.

^ Once again, this. It may not be *deliberately* dickish; the player may be just goofing around. (Although IME a surprising number of players will do this sort of thing to test boundaries -- what exactly will this DM let me get away with?) But in any event, the outcome is almost always bad: a trashed, plotless campaign with PCs on the run from the law.

Quote:

A lot of (not all) people never seem to think about the DM and what he wants for HIS game. It's all about "me" and how I can be entertained regardless of whether you pooched months of preparation and a whole campaign without asking the DM first if he's ok with this type of behavior in his game.

I wouldn't go overboard on that point. My position is that the DM is a "player" in the sense that s/he's one of the people sitting at the table. S/he doesn't deserve any less consideration than the other people at the table, or any more. I mean, as DM, sometimes things aren't going to go my way. Sometimes my feelings may even be bruised. Them's the breaks.

But it's my experience that the "Daaaah I kill the princess!" CN player ends up making things less fun for *everyone*. When I was a young and new DM, very long ago, I went through a period when I prided myself on sandbox worlds where the players could go anywhere and do anything. That was fun and great in some ways, but it also allowed a couple of my campaigns to be taken over -- and ruined -- by these sorts of players. I thought, well, I'll let the players do what they want... that's the fun of this game, right? You can do whatever you want?

Well, yes. But also, no.

Doug M


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Tossing alignment is sometimes an option. I've done it. It can work.

But (1) it's a minor PITA because alignment is hardwired into the game; spells and items and whatnot work differently depending on alignment, so you'll have to either go through and change stuff or do a lot of adjudicating on the fly; and (2) a surprising lot of players *like* alignment. Not all, but many. Either they like it because it's part of the game they love, like having levels and hit points and Vancian magic, or because, or they like it because it gives them a framework that makes playing their character easier and/or more interesting. Those are really common things IME.

Doug M.


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This is a short guide to casting the Planar Binding spell. It's a spinoff from my "Guide to the Diabolist"; after the first couple of thousand words, I realized that this deserved a guide of its own.

Comments very welcome!

Doug M.

* * * * *

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 general 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.

Let's start with three general rules for Planar Binding spells:

1) Never Cast Alone. If something goes wrong, it's just you and an angry outsider. Always have backup -- another PC, a cohort, your apprentice.

2) Be Prepared. Sooner or later, one of your called devils will break loose. You need a Plan B, and likely a Plan C as well (see below). The details will vary; it can be a raging barbarian cohort with a two-handed weapon, an apprentice with a scroll of Dismissal, or a Contingency spell that teleports you to your backup lair. But be prepared. Do your homework. Know what powers the creature you're calling has. If it has mental attacks, make sure everyone in the room has Protection from Evil. If it breathes poison, have antitoxin on hand. And so forth.

3) Never Call Anything Over Your CR. Your CR is your level-1. So if you're 10th level, don't call anything over CR 9. There's always a cool creature right at your CR. Don't be tempted. Wait a level and call it then.

And now, on to the details.

Part 0 -- 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.

Part 1 -- Drawing Your Diagram, and Other Preparation:

a) 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, and the check is rolled 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, and what have you, you should be able to swing it by 10th level or so.

b) 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 just 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.

c) Other preparation. Never Cast Alone! 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 cunning fiends 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 2 -- The Call:

a) 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 YMMV.

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.

b) 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 3 -- 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.

a) 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. If you win, great -- the creature is 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.

[Sidebar: You might think that this Cha-based binding system unfairly favors sorcerors. Not so much, actually. Sorcerors who want to use Planar Binding face some serious problems. Their slow spell progression means they get everything at least one level later, and probably two. And their limited spells known means it's hard for them to invest in the many utility spells that a dedicated binder character really should have (Magic Circle, Dimensional Anchor, Forbiddance, Dismissal, etc. etc.). At the very highest levels, 15 and up, yes, sorcerors do excel. But up to that point, you're probably somewhat better off playing a wizard with a decent Cha.]

b) 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.

b) 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.

c) 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 ten minutes 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 personal 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.

d) Duration. The maximum duration is days/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?"

e) 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 -- YANK -- 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, and will 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 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.

f) 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 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.

Part 4 -- When Things Go Wrong:

As noted, things WILL go wrong sometimes. That's just hardwired into the spell. You misdraw the circle, or the creature makes its initial special Cha check, or you roll a natural 1 on your opposed Cha check. Whatever else you do, you can't eliminate that 5% chance. So, the creature breaks out of the circle! Now what?

1) Stomp it. We'll call this Plan B. If you're a 10th level wizard with Bob, your 8th level barbarian cohort, standing by? and you're calling your sixth Bearded Devil this week? and you just happen to roll a 1 on your opposed Cha check...? Well, that's annoying, but you and Bob between you should have little difficulty taking this CR 5 creature down. If you have the appropriate mix of spells ready, there's really not much the devil can do but teleport away. (See "Dealing with it", below.) If you're a conservative sort, just don't ever call anything more powerful than your own CR minus three or so. That way you'll pretty much always be able to stomp it. The drawback is, you'll be summoning a lot of relatively weak creatures.

2) Run. Plan C. Either you summoned something a little stronger than you should, or the thing that you called got lucky -- shut down your cohort with a crit or a well-thrown SLA, and is now coming after you. You need an escape plan! Dimension Door is good (especially since it's grapple-proof) and so is Teleport -- most outsiders don't have Scry or some other means of tracking you. If you're high enough level, Contingency Teleport works too. Whatever your method, get out, run away, and regroup. Hard cheese on any apprentices or cohorts you might leave behind, but they knew the risks.

3) Dealing with it. Okay, now there's an outsider loose on the Prime Material Plane. Depending on the nature of the outsider, this could be anything from "nothing happens" through "there go local property values" to "everybody dies screaming". Some creatures will simply shrug and Plane Shift home. Some will trash and loot your quarters, hold a grudge against you for future reference, and then Plane Shift home. And some will stick around -- possibly nearby, possibly far away (but still on the same plane), and quite possibly plotting a bloody revenge against you, you insolent mortal caster you.

This is where Divination is your friend. You'll want to scry, scry, scry and use Commune and other strong divination spells to find the thing, or at least get an idea of what it's up to. If you're a good or neutral caster, you don't want a monster loose! If you're evil, you don't want a monster with a grudge against you loose! Your level of apprehension will of course depend on the power and nature of the creature... a Bearded Devil on the loose is no big deal, a Belier Devil on the loose is an "oh crap" moment even for a very powerful caster. (It's CR 16, can possess people, is superintelligent and really good at lying and hiding.) If the escaped creature is a real threat, you should be casting Forbiddance on your living quarters. But then, if you're casting Planar Bindings regularly, you should be doing that anyway.

Note that there's no reason you have to hunt this thing down alone. If you're lawful and on good terms with the local authorities, you might be able to ask the local clergy or the Wizards' Guild for help. Heck, even if you're Chaotic Evil, there's no reason you can't drop an anonymous note to the paladins that some sick freak has turned a vrock loose in the city. They may guess that it's the evil caster tipping them off, but paladins aren't generally optimized for investigation. Paladins, they get frustrated a lot.

Part 5 -- You and Your Bound Outsider:

a) 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 "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 dragon 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. The service you require may be difficult, dangerous, and unpleasant, but it can't be something the creature would regard as morally abhorrent; that's "unreasonable" and it's not going to fly.

b) 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. 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 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.

c) 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.

d) 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 (see below) then that might do it.

Part 6 -- 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.

a) 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.

b) 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.

c) 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 7 -- 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. Out of game, 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 noted above, 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.

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 roar and a blast of flame) 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 with Lawful creatures and/or if you're regularly forcing your targets to do stuff that ticks them off.

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.


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Okay, going down the list here:

-- Fighters tend to dump Int and Cha, making them less plausible as bosses
-- Fighters don't DO much except make melee attacks. This makes them both less plausible as bosses, and less interesting as BBEGs.
-- Fighters tend to have one or more glass jaws, such as low Will saves.
-- Fighters are built for deivering damage over long periods, not at the sort of explosion of one-use and dailies we want in a BBEG fight.

Gotta say, that's actually a pretty damning list. People don't generally use fighter BBEGs, and /there are good reasons for that/.

Doug M.


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Zargo's apprentice, broke with him over creative differences?


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Cуровую зиму wrote:
smiles widely in his sleep.

Not at all.


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Okay, simple enough challenge: build Elsa from Frozen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MK7qz13bU

Female human, let's go up to 15th level. The goal is to have the most awesome ice and snow related powers. NOT, repeat, NOT optimizing for combat or anything else -- though, sure, if she's a good build for combat or other purposes, that's gravy. If you want to add mythic tiers, you can, but with the caveat that the mythic stuff must serve the "awesome snow and ice powers" concept. In terms of what's awesome, stuff that is visually amazing and/or affects large areas or numbers of people is more important than stuff that does damage. (But real! Making her an illusionist is an interesting variant, but that's not what we're about.) Going thematic, very thematic, is strongly encouraged.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


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COMING IN 2014 -- DMDM'S WAY OF THE WICKED PART 2: THE DARK TOWER


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All right, gang... since nobody else seems to have any questions at the moment:

DING

Everybody level up!

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