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Douglas Muir 406's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. 9,782 posts. 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 alias.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Apraham Lincoln wrote:

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

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


Horrifying Strike (Ex)

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

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


Increase Fear (Su)

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

This is a mind-affecting fear effect.

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Apocalypso wrote:

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

Defense & Offense:


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


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

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

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

Patron: Deception

Tactics & Stats:


Before Combat -- Mrs. Baylock casts extended false life and extended mage armor every day, and casts poison into her witching gown (activating its spite effect). If time allows, she drinks a potion of bear’s endurance before combat.

During Combat -- Mrs. Baylock casts cloak of dreams on the first round of combat. Thereafter, she attacks enemies with mass pain strike, confusion, mind fog, mass suggestion, or lightning bolt. Once anyone closes with her in melee, she casts blink and unwilling shield, then targets her opponent with ill omen followed by baleful polymorph or charm monster. If her cover has not been blown, she also screams for help; this will attract 1d6 curious neighbors (low level commoners or experts) within 2d4 rounds, followed by the Watch two minutes later. PCs who cannot prove their innocence (i.e., by proving that she was really a soul-sucking murderess) will quickly find themselves in trouble with the authorities.

Morale -- If reduced to 60 hit points or fewer, Mrs. Baylock smashes her elemental gem to summon a Large air elemental with which to occupy the PCs while she flies to the ceiling or out a window to heal herself. She will be reluctant to abandon her home, however, especially if her cover has not been blown.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Exceptional Resources (Ex)

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

Permanent Spells (Ex)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Cauldron of Lifedrinking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Come on... reptoids. You can bring in a Lovecraftian connection: they're serving the unspeakable gods of the Dark Tapestry. You can use all that crazy tech stuff from Iron Gods. You can steal plots from old episodes of X-Files. And you can crank your players' paranoia up to 11, because *anyone might be a lizard person*.

And of course, the reptoid is a natural match for the Mesmerist class: +2 Cha, and they even have a racial ability that stacks with the Mesmerist's class ability. (A minor one, yes. But still.)

So, you have a city that's being taken over by the reptoids. There are only a few, but they've killed and replaced most of the town leaders: the Duke, the Mayor, even the head of the Thieves Guild. And their leader is a high level Mesmerist who can pretty much turn anyone's brain to mush. Lots of enchantments and illusions + people being replaced = the chance to just gaslight the hell out of your PCs.

What do they want? Well, season to taste, but I think they want to feed a bunch of people to some ancient artifact in order to open up a gate. A gate to nothing good. Tastes vary, but I don't see them as conquerors, myself. More like opportunistic scavengers: they invite the Great Old Ones in (or whatever), and then they loot the planet thoroughly during the ensuing chaos, and then they duck through a portal to the next hapless planet. Season to taste, YMMV.

What's the hook? Flumphs, of course. A flumph team shows up to warn the PCs about trouble ahead. In a pinch they can show up to offer help. Unfortunately, the kindly and lawful flumphs are always a step behind the manipulative and malevolent reptoids... so before the final confrontation with Team Lizard, I suspect the poor flumphs are going to end up tragically dead. But still: any campaign with flumphs is automatically better. So.


Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

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

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

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Mesmerist is IMO the coolest new class in a long time, and the stares and stare powers are a big part of the reason why. So, here's a mini-guide to the Bold Stares. (Nova Wurmson has already done a general Guide to the Mesmerist, and it's pretty good and I agree with most of it. I just think there's more to be said on this particular topic.)


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

The Four Excellent Stares

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

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

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

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

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

The Okay Stares

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

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

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

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

The WTH stares

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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

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

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

Doug M.

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It's been a while, but:

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:

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

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


Doug M.

And James replied as follows:


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

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

So there you have it.


Doug M.

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Halfling Mesmerist 1/Witch 4

1: Malicious Eye (lets him add Halfling Jinx to the Evil Eye Hex. Hex now gives -3 to all saves)
3: Iron Will
5: Bolster Jinx makes his Jinx Hex strip another -2 from target Will saves. Hex now strips -5 Will, -3 Fort and Reflex.

Evil Eye as a standard action + Hypnotic Stare as a swift action = target is at -7 Will and -3 to the other two. IIUC, none of these debuffs are subject to saves or SR... the halfling just scrunches up one eye for a few seconds and, bam, your Will goes all wobbly sideways.

As noted on the label, a one-trick pony... but if you pair him with a an enchanter, or anyone who specializes in save-or-sucks that target Will, there are some amusing possibilities.

Doug M.

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Tacticslion wrote:

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

Hangman's Noose, by Nick Logue.

Hook Mountain Massacre can also be run very well as horror, though it's more on the gross-out/black humor side.

Doug M.

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Arcaian wrote:
But for Still Spell i see no real advantage. Normally you dont get grappeled so often, or need to cast while wearing a Fullplate.

Emily is a spy, so she worries about being captured. Being able to cast while bound or in chains is worth a feat in her mind.

I might be misinformed, but last I heard there was a ruling that even with no components, and with Still and Silent metamagics, enemies still get a spellcraft check to identify what spell you're casting?

I believe you are correct -- even a Still Silent spell can still be identified with Spellcraft. Note, though, that (1) pretty much nobody uses Spellcraft except arcane casters, so she just has to keep an eye out for those, and (2) the Bloodline Arcana for the Rakshasa Bloodline: Add half your sorcerer level to the Spellcraft DC for others to identify spells you cast. So, anyone trying to spot Emily's spellcasting is effectively at -3 on the roll.

Also, her high Bluff skill can sometimes cover for spellcasting. (Really, under RAW, a sufficiently high Bluff is like a reality-warping field.) So, e.g., target: "Did you just try Charm me?" Emily: [Outlandish lie at +14] Target: "Oh... okay."

Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

DMDM's Mini-Guide to the Gate spell

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

Doug M.

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

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

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

Building Emily:

N Female Human Sorceress 6 (Rakshasa bloodline)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traits and Feats:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloodline powers and Spells:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

3rd (3) Summon Monster III

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


4650 gp

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


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

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

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


Doug M.

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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Additional plot seeds:

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

Thank you!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garzuul, the Singing Gargoyle:

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Languages Common, Terran

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

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

Freeze (Ex)

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

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

Possible plot seeds:

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

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

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

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There must be many more. Thoughts?

Doug M.

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

Doug M.

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

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


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

I guess he kind of knew this was coming.


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

Doug M.

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Milo v3 wrote:

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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Everything Headfirst said above. It's exactly correct.

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

Doug M.

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Kurald Galain wrote:

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

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

Why this is so:

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments? Thoughts?

Doug M.

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

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

Doug M.

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I'm trying to make sense of the proclamations. I get that they're supposed to oppress and enrage the people, and also to convey a sense of Thrune's malicious whimsy. But...

1) ...why in Asmodeus' name would Thrune do this? He's got a clear goal: turning into a genius locus. Surely the smart play is not to rile up the population, but rather to rule quietly and efficiently while setting up his transition to immortality. Why buy trouble this way?

2) Also, if you're a Lawful Evil tyrant, random proclamations about mint and whatnot don't seem like a good thematic fit. Curfew, sure. Crank up taxes, absolutely. Nasty public torture and executions, you bet. But "nobody can drink tea at night" and other pointless proclamations that serve no purpose but to flaunt your power and annoy people? I know arguing alignment is a mug's game, but that realy seems more Chaotic.

3) What's so enraging about the final proclamation? I mean, other than that it is ONE MORE completely stupid and pointless law. But nobody in the crowd seems to be a ship's captain, and it's never mentioned whether this will be a serious problem for the city. (Also, any DM using this will have to pause and explain what "squassation" is.) I could accept it as a straw-that-breaks-the-camel's-back type thing, but surely the author could have come up with something more thematic and/or connected to the main plot?

Am I alone in this?

Doug M.

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Part 7: Magic Items:

This is a short list, because as a general rule anything that’s good for an ordinary spellcaster will be good for a Diabolist too. These are just a few items that are particularly noteworthy.

Abjurant Salt (600 gp/dose) – This stuff is amazing: under the RAW, no called or summoned creature can cross a line or circle made of it. It’s an open question whether teleportation is allowed (I’d say no) but even so, this is really a must-have item. Buy it in bulk and use it liberally. Of course, once your DM knows it exists, he’ll probably use it against you at some point. But that’s only fair.

Alchemical Reagents – Little known fact: casting abjuration spells with cold iron gives you +1 ECL, while ginger extract gives you +1 ECL on transmutation spells. Both these reagents cost just 5 gp per spell cast.

Amulet of the Spirits [Heavens variant] (8,000 gp) – “Whenever the wearer can see the open sky at night, she can… add her Wisdom modifier to her Charisma modifier on all Charisma checks and Charisma-based skill checks”. If you have a positive Wis modifier, install a skylight in your conjuration chamber. If you’re a Diabolist cleric, this is a must-have!

Bracelet of Bargaining (13,500 gp) – Gives you +5 competence bonuses on Bluff, Diplomacy and Sense Motive, plus the funny handshake power. Good for anyone, but a Diabolist will actually use these skills regularly.

Caller’s Feather (2,000 gp) – This is an expensive one-shot consumable. It raises the maximum hit dice of creatures you can call by +2 – so Lesser Planer Binding can call creatures with up to 8 HD, Greater Planar Binding creatures of up to 20, and so forth – and gives you +2 on the initial Charisma check. Then it crumbles to dust. Pricey at lower levels, but at higher levels it’s a bargain. Unclear if it stacks with the +2 from Augment Calling, but I don’t see anything in the description that would forbid it, so probably yes.

Candle of Invocation (8,400 gp) – While the candle is burning, creatures of the same alignment as the candle within 30’ of the flame add a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks. Have one of these burning whenever you call something – 25’ behind you, mind, so that the called creature doesn’t get the benefit. At 10 minutes per calling you’ll get 24 uses out of it, but if you’re clever you’ll save the last use so you can break it and get that free Gate spell.

Circlet of Persuasion (4,500) gp – A +3 competence bonus on Charisma checks? Sweet. You definitely want this. It even stacks with Eagles Splendor (enhancement bonus), though not with the Bracelet of Bargaining above. Just remember that it takes up your headband slot.

Demon Blood (800 gp) – You want a decent Fortitude save to avoid the side effects, but for one hour it gives you +2 to overcome demons’ spell resistance, and demons get -2 on their saves against your spells and SLAs. Definitely worthwhile if you’re playing Wrath of the Righteous or otherwise going up against large numbers of demons.

Dweomer’s Essence (500 gp) – At 500 gold per shot, this stuff isn’t cheap. But each dose gives you +5 on a single spell to overcome SR. Use it while you’re saving up money to get a Metamagic Rod of Piercing Spell, and then keep a dose or two around in case you hit the 3 spells/day limit on the rod (or in case you meet something with crazy high SR).

Darksire Amulet (9,000 gp) – Only usable by tieflings, but for them it gives +5 to one energy resistance and a +4 insight bonus on Diplomacy checks against evil outsiders.

Goblin Drum (2,000 gp) – If you do a lot of short-range blasting? This item increases the damage output of all fires within 30’, whether magical or natural, by +1 hp/die. It can also make unattended flammable items explode! It has to be played as a move action, which is fine – you give it to your imp.

Hamatulatsu Robe (14,000 gp) – You might want this for the coolness factor and the +1 untyped AC bonus. The d8 of unarmed damage and the weird monk feat are fun if you’re the sort who enjoys beating minions to a pulp with your bare hands.

Iron Flask (170,000 gp) – Crazy expensive, so of interest only to high level characters. Lets you entrap a single outsider inside. The creature gets a DC 19 Will save (with no SR) to resist. If it fails it’s stuck in the flask until you release it (and then it has to serve you for an hour). Useful as insurance against a calling gone bad, as a last-ditch defense in a pinch, and possibly (if the DM allows it) as an aid to negotiation – “You can do my bidding now, or you can take your chances with Mr. Flasky here.”

Ioun Stones – Most of these are good for anybody. A few would be of particular interest to Diabolists.

-- Mossy Disk (5,000): If you can find one that boosts Knowledge (Planes), the +5 competence bonus is great for researching those True Names.

-- Orange Prism (30,000): Expensive, but it gives a flat +1 caster level to everything, including penetrating SR. If you’re high level and do a lot of blasting, well worth it.

-- Pale Green Prism (30,000): Also expensive, but +1 on attack roles, saves, every one of your skills and also ability checks – which includes contested Cha checks – makes this worth getting once you can afford it.

-- Pale Orange Rhomboid (200,000) – Very expensive, but saves you from death once/day. If you’ve invested heavily in the Damned feats, or anything else that makes raising you difficult or impossible, this is probably worthwhile once you can afford it. (AFAICT this, unlike the Breath of Life spell, saves you a moment before death rather than a moment after, and so avoids the damnation rules. Make sure your DM agrees.) The Flawed stone is a one-shot version that saves your life a single time and then burns out. If you have damnation issues, I’d say it’s a steal at 12,000 gp.

Master’s Perfect Golden Bell (20,000) – When struck, reduces the SR and DR of all outsiders within 30’ by 5. Requires an unarmed strike to activate, and lasts d6 rounds. Potentially useful against recalcitrant creatures. Of course, a DM may also use this against you and your servants…

Metamagic Rod [Piercing Spell] (3,000 for Lesser, 11,000 for standard, or 24,500 for Greater) – Bite the bullet and spend the money. This plus the spell penetration feats = you can pretty much ignore SR. That’s huge.

Orb of Foul Abaddon (18,000 gp) – The thing’s dread bolt power is pretty useless, but that’s not what you want it for – it also gives +1 caster level to all spells with the evil descriptor. Remember, every spell you use Hellfire Admixture on counts as evil, so this is an extra die of damage on blasting, plus an extra day of service from whatever evil creatures you may call and bind.

Otherworldly Kimono (67,000 gp) – Grants a +4 resistance bonus to all saves, +4 on caster level checks, and an odd Maze-like trapping power that increases both these temporarily to +6. The Robe of the Archmagi is superior overall, but for a Diabolist both the bump to ECL and the trapping power are pretty attractive.

Prayer Beads, Standard (45,800 gp) –Pricey, but you want this for the Bead of Karma, which gives you +4 ECL for 10 minutes/day. (Non-divine casters will need a UMD check.)

Ring of Mind Shielding (8,000 gp) – You are continually immune to detect thoughts, discern lies, and any attempt to magically discern your alignment. Good at all times, and a must-have if your diabolist is spending a lot of time in places where devil-summoning evil wizards may not be welcome. (“I told you, Mr. Paladin. I’m a dentist.”)

Robe of the Archmagi (75,000 gp) – If you’re rich enough to afford it, this is actually cheap at the price. 75k is a lot, but for that you’re getting a +5 armor bonus to AC, a +4 resistance bonus on all saves, SR 18, and a +2 enhancement bonus on checks to overcome SR. That’s a lot of goodness in one single body-slot item. Just make sure the bonuses stack with whatever you already have – i.e., this will make Mage Armor useless, and you’ll be dropping that Cloak of Resistance in the Goodwill box.

Robe Blazing/ Shocking / Voidfrost (11,000) – Each of these gives you Resistance 5 to one energy type and +1 caster level with that energy type. That’s an extra die of blasting damage and +1 against SR. So if you blast a lot, these are a great way to use your body slot for a few levels until you can afford that spiffy Robe of the Archmagi.

Summon Bane weapon -- +2 against summoned or called creatures, and +2d6 damage. Pick one up for your meat shield servant or cohort. Another item that the DM may use against you, of course. Oh, these DMs.

Part 8: The Devil at the table -- Playing a Diabolist:

This Guide assumes that you're going to call up monsters. Once you're high enough level to start casting Lesser Planar Binding, you're going to call up lots and lots of devils. The class supports it -- this is the only Paizo PrC that gives bonuses to conjuring and binding things -- so you're going to do it.

This means you could have a lot of creatures working for you. At 10th level, it would be totally plausible for you to have your imp companion, a brute squad of four bearded devils, and a zebub devil flying ahead to scout. In game terms, that means a LOT of action economy. That's great! You'll be running seven different creatures, so you can do seven different things. Sounds good, right? Well, yes and no.

If you're in a tabletop game... well, you know how some people don't like playing with summoners, because the guy who is playing the summoner is really getting to play two characters, and so is taking up twice as much time as everyone else? This is like that, only potentially worse. Oh so much worse. If you're playing as many creatures as the rest of the party combined, you may be taking up as much game time as the rest of the party combined. The other players and the DM are going to get sick of this toute suite. So if you don't want to be That Guy, here are some suggestions.

Talk to the DM first. If you make it clear where you're going with the character, your DM will be a lot more likely to let you give it a try. (DMs generally dislike being surprised.) Getting DM buy-in is always a good idea.

Start slow. In theory, once you can start casting LPB you can very quickly have a squad of half a dozen devils working for you. In practice, start with one for a while. Not only will that get the DM and the other players used to having new pieces on the board, it'll also give you a chance to ease into the organizational and tactical challenges -- see below.

Be organized. If you have four bearded devils, have a short character sheet for each one in front of you. Alice, Barney, Chuck and Dan -- track their hits, track their status, know what their AC and bonuses are as well as you know your own. If the game uses miniatures, bring your own miniatures for your monsters. If all your creatures are acting on different initiatives, blow a few bucks on one of those initiative trackers and volunteer to be Initiative Person. (Trust me, your DM will appreciate this.)

Be decisive. Have a default plan. Round one, the zebub throws grease and then flies to safety, two barbazus charge while two others flank with the fighter and the rogue, the imp pulls out the fireball wand. Round two, while the other players are acting, you are thinking about what to do next. You're not texting, you're not flipping through a splatbook -- you're planning. So when your turn comes, bam bam bam, you can rattle off what each of your creatures is doing.
Understand that this means your decisions won't always be optimal. If you're one of those players who always has to get the maximum mileage out of every feat and every spell, who always has to place the miniature in exactly the right square, who NEEDS to have every possible bonus? Do not play this class. It's not going to be a happy experience. Lots of creatures means you need to play fast, and that means sometimes you'll miss stuff. Alice and Barney will move just out of range of the cleric's healbomb channel. Chuck will neglect to take an AoO he was entitled to. Dan will forget that the bard's Inspire Courage is still giving him an attack bonus. The zebub devil may simply disappear for a couple of rounds, forgotten. You either play fast and a little sloppy, or you try to play optimally and take twenty minutes to complete one turn and everybody hates you. Play fast.

(One way to make this fun: when you play suboptimally, roleplay it. Alice and Barney? they don't think they need a stupid mortal cleric's pathetic healing magic. Chuck? is sulking because he wants to go back to Hell, so he let the enemy get away. And the zebub devil found a rat in a corner and spent the last three rounds giggling and slowly pulling it to pieces.)

Make it work for the other players too. Don't hog the glory -- share it. Make sure one of your creatures is always a flank buddy for the rogue and the fighter. If there's another squish caster in the party, make sure she always has a meat shield. If your creatures have useful skills or SLAs, use them for the party. If the party antipaladin just acquired a castle, offer her some bound devils to help guard it while she's out committing crimes. In general, act like your conjured creatures are party resources, not yours.

Here's a trick: if you're not decisively certain what to do with one of your creatures? Ask other players. "Alice goes here, Barney teleports next to the caster, Chuck... hey, do you need another hitter on that giant? Chuck could charge him." Boom, you're turning your turn into their turn as well. Don't overdo this -- you don't want the whole party voting on every move -- but if you do it at least once per combat, it will help reinforce that these creatures are there for everyone, not just you.

Part 9: Odds and Ends:

The Diabolist’s capstone 10th level power is super-situational and is largely dependent on your DM’s willingness to give you access to the True Names of powerful creatures. The 9th level power is just another +2 on researching devil’s true names, and the 8th level power is only interesting if you enter this class early and/or if you’re very blasty. So you may want to view the Diabolist as a PrC with seven or at most eight levels, not ten.

The Diabolist can shine in any setting, but it’s particularly good in campaigns where the PCs have a solid base of operations and/or are regularly fighting good or chaotic opponents. Fire Mountain Games’ Way of the Wicked is an AP for evil characters, and a Diabolist can be tremendous fun here. Among the Paizo Adventure Paths, a Diabolist could be particularly fun to play in Rise of the Runelords (base yourself in Sandpoint, and allow no evil from the past to interfere with your evil plans), Kingmaker (where once there was wilderness, now rises a great cathedral to Asmodeus), and Wrath of the Righteous (chaos must be fought!). That last one gets tricky if there’s a paladin in the party, but if there isn’t, you can have some insane fun pitting Evil against Different Evil. Oh, and then of course there are the two new Cheliax APs that are coming out. A Diabolist seems like she might fit right in...

The Diabolist is technically legal for PFS play, but you can’t enter the class until 9th level for wizards, and your Hellfire powers are nerfed by a distinct shortage of good-aligned opponents. (On the other hand, being damned doesn’t matter so much.) Dipping one level for the imp is probably the best option for PFS.

There’s not a lot of synergy between the Diabolist and other PrCs, but if you’re willing to give up a level of spellcasting, three levels of Darkfire adept give you an interesting mix of options including Sacred Summons and the Darkfire Pact. The Pact is very nice; it raises the HD limit on your conjurations by +2 (another way to get that Pit Fiend…) while making your conjured creatures noticeably more powerful. Whether it’s worth that lost level of casting is up to you. Meanwhile, a single level of Cyphermage won’t hurt much and gives you Focused Scroll, which if you’re an Int-based caster gives you a whopping bonus to overcoming SR once/day.

The Genie Binder PrC is sort of like the Diabolist except it’s specialized for binding genies, has fewer interesting powers, and you can’t start on it until 12th (!) level. If you want to go that route, most of this guide would apply to the Genie Binder as well.

I doubt any DM would allow you to take the Devilbound template for yourself. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t negotiate this for some other creature, especially if you’re on good terms with a contract devil. A melee character or monster can gain some serious value from getting bound to a barbed or host devil -- +2 to all physical stats, and +4 natural AC, and some handy SLAs.

While you’re best at conjuring devils, don’t forget other monsters too. Elementals in particular make excellent frontline troops. They have low Cha, making them easy to boss around even without Infernal Charisma (and you can get bonuses against them by doing things like lighting bonfires around the circle for a water elemental, surrounding it with ice for a fire elemental – yes, really, that will give you +4 on your Cha check). They have useful special abilities like setting stuff on fire or Earth Glide (great for scouting and flanking). And – maybe best of all – they are stupid and usually have no Sense Motive, so you can lie to them freely. A discussion of different outsiders and their strengths and weaknesses is included in DMDM’s Guide to Planar Binding.

At higher levels, the Infernal Binder subschool of conjuration specialists has the obnoxious power of being able to hijack your control over conjured creatures. Would your DM throw one of these guys at you? Surely not.

Late in the game you may get access to Gate. Gate is its own interesting thing. It’s discussed in more detail in DMDM’s Guide to Planar Binding, but the key points are (1) you want to boost your ECL as high as possible and then (2) you want a pile of cash on hand.

Questions and comments can be directed to Douglas Muir 406 on the paizo forum.

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Part 5: True Names, and how to get them:

You want True Names. You want as many of them as you can possibly get your sweaty little hands on. Why? Because when you know an outsider’s true name, it gets -5 on its Will save against your spell, and then another -5 on checks to escape your circle. And you can call that same outsider, over and over again. The outsider probably won’t like this much, but what do you care? You have its true name. And you can very plausibly threaten to publicize it, causing the outsider’s life to become unbearable as it’s endlessly called to service.

All devils have true names, as do most other outsiders. (Proteans, aeons and qlippoth do not. You don’t want any of those anyway.) There are three ways to discover them. First, you can simply be a wizard and take the True Name arcane discovery. That’s only available at the 11th wizard level, though, so it’s not a great choice for diabolists.

Second, you can beat, bribe, or otherwise crowbar it out of another devil. According to RAW, “Lesser devils [12 or fewer HD] typically know 1d4+1 true names and sigils, while greater devils usually know 2d8+2. There are certain exceptions such as lemures that never know any true names, osyluths that usually know as many names and sigils as true devils, and gelugons and certain other highly manipulative greater devils who might know double the typical number.” To get a true name out of a conjured devil, you need to make a second opposed Cha check – that’s in addition to the one you made to summon it – and if that works, you get the name but nothing else; the devil promptly pops back home to Hell. The name will always be the name of a weaker devil than the one you called. The RAW doesn’t go into more details, but presumably the DM can either roll randomly or just decide what sort of devil it is.

Don’t be surprised if names obtained this way (1) are of fairly weak and minor devils, and/or (2) come with serious strings attached. After all, you’re basically asking the DM to get creative here. When it turns out that the osyluth gave you the name of a particularly intelligent barbazu who is chief torturer to Lord Humongus, a powerful pit fiend? And that Lord H. will quickly miss his favored servant, and come looking for him in person? You can’t say you weren’t warned.

Third, you can research it. You discover a true name by spending at least a month in a well-equipped library (or three months for a devil of 13 or more HD) and then making a Knowledge [Planes] check. The DC is 25 if you’re looking for a random lesser devil; otherwise, if you’re looking for a specific name, it’s 20+the creature’s HD. That can get up pretty high, but with max ranks, good Int, aid from another, Heresy, and the right feats and items, it’s actually not at all hard to get +35 or so by the low teen levels.

Note that the DM rolls the check secretly, and if you fail by 5 or more, you get the name wrong, with potentially horrific consequences. The RAW doesn’t spell out those consequences, but it’s not hard to think of some nasty ones. After all, it’s canon that fiends salt bad names out there as bait for uppity mortal spellcasters. A bad name might call up something much stronger than you intended, or cause your protective circle to malfunction, or act as a signal flare to powerful and hostile forces, or open you to magic-jar style possession. Do you really want to give your DM a chance to exercise his deranged imagination? Just don’t try to research anything whose DC is greater than your modifier +5.

Part 6: Spells for a Diabolist:

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

Level 1

Grease – One of the few first level spells that’s useful against at least some midlevel outsiders; it ignores SR and targets Reflex, most outsiders’ weakest save. No good against flying creatures, of course.

Protection from Evil -- Kind of a no-brainer. You must have this spell. Protection from Good too, since you’re likely to be fighting Good creatures more often than most.

Snowball – A fine low-level spell for a conjurer. Not likely to be much use at higher levels, but it does ignore SR!

Level 2

Ballad of the Homesick Wanderer – Actually a bardic masterpiece, but it swaps for a second level spell. “Called outsiders who fail their Will saves against this masterpiece take a –2 penalty on attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws for the performance’s duration.” If you have a bard cohort or party member, this is definitely worth having in her repertoire – have the bard start playing while you’re finishing your summons, and that -2 penalty can be applied on the initial Cha check. A low-minded DM might throw a bard with this against you, especially if you’re using squads of outsiders – it’s a mass debuff with a range of “can hear”.

Bestow Insight – For 1 minute/level, get an insight bonus on all checks with a single skill, ranging from +2 to +6, and you can reroll one skill check (though this immediately ends the spell). Useful for your circle-drawing Spellcraft check, for Knowledge (Planes), for bluffing a called creature, or really all sorts of things. Keep a scroll or two around.

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 your opposed Cha checks.

Fox's Cunning -- If you're an Int-based caster.

Misdirection -- If you're living someplace where having an evil aura is an issue.

Owl's Wisdom -- 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.

Shared Sacrifice – Called outsiders may not be willing to have this spell cast on them, and unwilling targets get SR and a Will save. However, it works just fine on summoned creatures or – heh heh heh – your imp companion. The rounds/level duration is a nuisance, but it’s a fine buff for casting before big combats if you have time.

Web – A fine utility spell that targets Reflex, a weak save for most outsiders.

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.

Blood Transcription – This creepy but thematic spell allows you to learn new spells by drinking the blood of dead spellcasters. Yes, this also works for learning SLAs from a dead outsider.

Haste -- I hate this spell, as it’s clearly overpowered for third level. Which is why everyone uses it, of course. 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.

Vision of Hell – Pleasantly thematic, this is really a simple area-based debuff: Will save or be shaken. The good things about it are long range, wide area (50’ radius) and minutes/level duration. The bad thing is, lawful evil creatures are unaffected. Oh, and it also affects your allies. Not an issue if your allies are lawful evil, mind. Not a bad spell, but more about cool factor than mechanical advantage.

Level 4

Dimensional Anchor -- You must have this spell. Most obviously, you need to cast it as part of conjuring anything that can teleport. Also, the Bestiary is full of outsiders that can teleport or dim door, both on your side and on Heaven’s.

Enervation -- A fine spell for dealing with difficult outsiders. You did take Spell Penetration, right?

Legato Piece on the Infernal Bargain – A bardic masterpiece that replaces a 4th level spell. Lets bards cast a modified version of Planar Ally. Somewhat better than Planar Ally in that it allows creatures of any sort to be called. Unfortunately there are no Lesser or Greater versions, so it’s really only useful from Level 11 (when a bard can first cast it) to level 15 or so (at which point 12 HD creatures are not all that helpful).

Lesser Planar Binding -- You must have this spell.

Sacrifice – This spell is very thematic, but only occasionally useful. Spending 100 gp/HD to get a miserable +1 on your DC or Cha check isn’t usually that good a deal. Sacrificing a captive enemy for +2 is a bit more attractive. (Certainly it’s a lot easier than some of the crazier creature-specific offerings, like the marilith and her military hand sashimi.) Of course, having to subdue and capture the wretched paladin instead of just killing him is kind of a pain. But on the plus side, anyone you kill with this spell can’t be brought back except by a wish or miracle, so it’s a good way to make sure the paladin is out of your hair for good. (DMs, this spell gives your bad guys a good reason to want to take the PCs alive.)

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

Magic Jar – In theory this could be used to transfer your consciousness into one of your called creatures, thereby opening up all kinds of fascinating possibilities. In practice it would be a bit challenging, as this spell is affected by SR, grants a Will save, and requires the target to hang around within range. (And intelligent outsiders would probably be very, very unhappy about this.) That said, it’d be an impressive trick if you could pull it off somehow.

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 at hand. At a minimum, get it on a scroll.

Spellcasting Contract, Lesser – Unfortunately, this is a cleric/oracle-only spell. Take it if you’re a diabolist cleric. “You gain a profane bonus to your Armor Class, saving throws, and checks equal to the highest- level spell you have imbued.” That includes Cha checks to bargain down the cost of Planar Allies! And for a combat cleric, trading spell slots for AC and saves makes a lot of sense anyway. Even if you’re not a combat cleric, casting this on your allies (or your imp companion) opens up all sorts of interesting new possibilities in terms of action economy. Finally, note that it’s totally appropriate for you to trade spells in return for actions or favors, especially ones that may lead to someone getting damned.

Level 6

Antimagic Field -- Works to banish summoned creatures but not called ones. Still handy for shutting down dangerous spell-like abilities. Great if you have a melee-type ally or cohort.

Geas-Quest – You really want this spell, because it allows SR but *no* saving throw! Use this to make sure your creatures are staying in line, especially the high Will-save ones. If you pile on the bonuses against SR by Piercing Spell, Dweomer’s Essence, and so forth, you should be able to Geas even very powerful outsiders.

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 wide range of buffs and other helpful effects.

Legend Lore -- You can use this to get information on named individual outsiders. Worth considering if you’re calling something really powerful.

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.

Spellcasting Contract – See above.

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. Still worth taking.

Moment of Prescience – A great utility spell that's partiularly useful for planar binders. 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.

Trap the Soul – This is expensive (1,000 gp per hit die) and not really worth doing unless you know the creature’s name, and have lots of money to burn on shattered gems from failed attempts. But if you do know its name, you can boss it around anyway. Sure, it’s thematic and cool and all, and it’s convenient to have an outsider trapped indefinitely in a gem that you can carry around. But it’s probably not worth the cost and risk unless someone is willing to pay you to do it. I'd say this spell, like Binding, is only really useful if the DM allows you to use it for attitude adjustment purposes (i.e., getting modifiers on rolls against your conjured creatures.)

Level 9

Gate – Discussed in some detail in DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding. Make sure you discuss this with your DM in advance, as it’s a spell that leaves a fair amount of room for rules interpretation. Note: if your campaign is going to the highest levels, this spell will partly replace Planar Binding / Ally, and in ways that could affect your long-term build plan.

Spellcasting Contract, Greater – See above. Note that this can give you a profane bonus of to +5 on AC and saves, 24/7 all the time. The only reason this isn’t utterly awesome is that you may have other profane bonuses, and they may not stack. It’s still pretty solid.

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Part 4.1: 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. And time will sometimes be an issue.) Once you can consistently get +19 before buffs, you can and should ignore this. It’s not that useful at high levels, and you’ll have better things to spend those ranks on.

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 (1) you never know when the DM is going to throw you a curve with some bizarre new sort of outsider, and (2) this is the skill you use for researching the names of outsiders. Which is a thing you’re going to want to do; see below. So, keep putting ranks in this, every level.

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

Diplomacy -- Hey, this skill works on evil outsiders too. 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’d prefer them to be 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 it's a class skill for Diabolists. Note that the human alternate trait Silver Tongued, or the Fiendish Diplomacy feat, let you shift a target’s attitude more than two places. How that might interact with turning hostile, hateful conjured outsiders into happy, productive employees is left as an issue for you and your DM.

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. True… but: there are a few conjurable outsiders that can be ridden. If you have ranks to spare, and 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 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 career 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 so 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 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, actually I’m a dentist."

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

Part 4.2: Building Towards a Diabolist (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.

Augment Calling -- Choose a subtype of outsider, such as angel or devil. When using planar ally or planar binding spells on that subtype, you can call 2 additional HD of outsiders. That’s pretty sweet! At low levels you can call 8 HD creatures with the Lesser spells. At high levels, hey, the pit fiend is just out of range of a normal Greater Planar Ally or Binding; this lets you snag one. But there’s more! This feat also gives you 25% off the cost of Planar Ally and/or +2 on opposed Charisma checks for Planar Binding. The 25% should stack with the 50% discount from Infernal Bargain, meaning that if you win your Charisma check you pay only 25% of list price. So, this feat is very good for anyone, but a must-have if you’re relying on Planar Ally.

Boon Companion – This probably should work on your imp (RAW says the relationship is "similar to a druid's bond with her animal companion", which is what this feat affects) but confirm with your DM. Makes your imp a lot tougher: a Wiz 5 / Diabolist 1, for instance, would have an imp companion with 9d10 hit dice, BAB +6, and AC around 22. Attractive at midlevels, fades a bit later on as the imp is competing with ever more powerful called creatures.
Breadth of Knowledge – A fine feat that’s unfortunately restricted to elves and gnomes, this gives you +2 on *all* Knowledge checks. If you’re playing a wizard who’s a knowledge monkey (as many wizards are), this is pretty attractive. Also, every bit helps when you’re researching those true names.

Conversion Channel – Consider this if you’re a cleric of Asmodeus who uses channeling, especially if you’re just dipping Diabolist for a level or two: it lets you healbomb fellow worshippers (presumably including all devils) once/day, and also may occasionally cause a foe to convert to Asmodeus’ worship.

Craft Wand -- Take this if you're doing the "wand-wielding imp companion" thing.

Cypher Magic – This is a fine feat for any arcane caster, and +1 caster level is good both for blasting and for overcoming spell resistance. Also, if you take this at 5th level or lower, it will help you read the scroll to become a Diabolist early. It also opens the option of dipping one level of Cyphermage, if you want to snag Focused Scroll.

Damnation feats – The Maleficium feats (from Champions of Corruption) are amazing if (1) you’re playing a blaster, and (2) your DM agrees that Hellish Soul trumps the damnation rules given for those feats. Otherwise they are thematic but probably too much trouble.

Damned (story feat) – This feat is amazing. If you take it and accept damnation, you get a +2 on all cha checks against evil outsiders, +1 DC on spells cast against them, a +2 enhancement bonus to one stat and, almost as an afterthought, +2 to penetrate good outsiders’ SR. This is just crazy good, and it’s almost a must-have for any would-be Diabolist.

I say “almost” because there’s a kicker: that whole “If you die while under the effects of this agreement, you can't be brought back from the dead unless your devil-boss permits it” thing. As a player, you really want this feat – subject to some clarification on the dying business, of course. As a DM… well, this is pretty powerful, and you’d be within your rights to prohibit it. I would certainly prohibit it if the player was building a Diabolist from scratch at a high level; that wipes out the whole point of story feats. If a player wants this, my advice would be (1) allow it only if the character takes it early, either at character creation or no later than 3rd level; (2) roleplay hell out of it, making contact with the evil outsider a side quest and playing out the negotiation; and (3) add terms and conditions to keep it interesting. What kind of terms? “The agreement is renewed at the dark of each moon. By then, you must have killed a champion of Good or Chaos (i.e., a creature of at least your CR) and brought its heart to burn at the altar of Asmodeus.” “Every week, you must either shed the blood of an innocent, cause an intelligent creature to be enslaved, or bring a new worshipper to the Dark Lord.” The usual. Another way to balance this is to roleplay that the PC is making a deal with a particular powerful devil – which may then have plans of its own. So, Don the Diabolist is now serving the pit fiend Lord Humongus, Baron of the Seventh Circle and Second Deputy Minister for Internal Infernal Affairs? Well, one day Don may wake up to find that Lord H. has a job for him. Let’s see how he likes being jerked around by some creature from another plane…

Diabolical Negotiator -- You can add your Intelligence or Wisdom modifier (whichever is higher) on Diplomacy checks in place of Cha, and you can shift a creature's attitude more than two steps with Diplomacy. That last is potentially quite powerful, as at high levels you could build a Diplomacy monkey with the power to turn hostile creatures (including called creatures!) friendly or helpful. Unfortunately it imposes a feat tax – you must have Skill Focus [Diplomacy] first. (But note that if you have access to the second level Peaceful Parley spell, you can use Diplomacy to short-circuit combat.)

Divine Protection – Used to be bright blue (you could add your Cha bonus to all your saves, like a paladin. Yes, really.) Alas, it got nerfed in the .pdf errata.

Esoteric Advantage – Lets you reduce a creature’s DR, SR, or energy resistance by 2 if you first make a Knowledge check. As a practical matter, this would be an extra Spell Penetration feat, except not quite as good as Spell Penetration because you have to check first. On the other hand, your Knowledge (Planes) should be high enough that you autowin checks on most outsiders. If you really want to blow past SR, pile this on top of the two Spell Penetration feats.

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.

Fast Study (wizard discovery) – This lets you restudy Planar Binding and the associated utility spells fast, effectively allowing you to cast it in the middle of a dungeon. This is situational, but could be super handy if you suddenly need the abilities of a particular outsider. Under RAW it would also allow you to restudy and cast this spell many times per day, allowing you to very rapidly raise an army of outsiders. That’s potentially unbalancing, though, so talk to your DM first.

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.

Noble Scion (Scion of Lore) – The poor cousin of Breadth of Knowledge, this gives you +1 on every knowledge feat you have a rank in. Oh, and +2 on Knowledge [Nobility] (eyeroll). Still, if you can’t get Breadth of Knowledge, might be worth a feat.

Piercing Spell – Lowers your targets SR by 5 in return for using a slot one level higher. If you’re a spontaneous caster, this is a must-have feat; you’re going to be dealing with outsiders a lot, and SR is going to be an issue. Everyone else, it’s not bad, but you’re probably better off investing in the metamagic rod instead.

Sacred Summons – Normally there’s a two-feat tax on this one (SF: Conjuration and Augment Summons). But since Diabolist clerics get Augment Summons for free, this is actually quite attractive for them.

Steward of the Great Beyond – 9th level wizard discovery. Lets you block teleportation or summoning effects near you once/day. Since you plan to spend a lot of time around potentially hostile outsiders, it’s certainly possible to imagine situations where this could save your bacon in a big way. But it’s very situational, and it doesn’t even always work – there’s a contested caster level check. Dark orange to red, don’t bother unless you’ve got some kind of teleportation theme going. (Watch for a DM using this against you or your creatures, though.)

Superior Summons – I’m honestly not sure if this is worthwhile or not. On one hand, you don’t have to pay the normal feat tax on this because you’re getting Augment Summons for free. On the other hand, is summoning large numbers of lower level monsters really the way you want to go, especially when you already have large numbers of conjured creatures running around? I guess this is green if you’re comfortable with running lots of creatures at once.

Skill Focus (Knowledge [Planes]) – Is it worth spending one of your precious, precious feats on this? Maybe! It’s not immediately useful, but at higher levels, the +6 this gives you can really be leveraged – you use it to research the true names of powerful outsiders, and then you use that to abuse them mercilessly. I mean, call them to serve.

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.

Spell Specialization – A fine feat for a blaster. If you’re going the Evocation Wizard route, grab this for sure. Turns blue if you ever get high enough level to cast Gate, because Gate is all about ECL.

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. 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. The only exception is if you're a human or tiefling cleric -- your favored class bonus will do the job instead.

Varisian Tattoo – +1 ECL on conjuration spells does help towards spell resistance. +1 ECL on blasts is nice, but you have to pay the Spell Focus feat tax first; probably not worth it unless your build is very blasty. Nice as part of the Tattooed Sorceror package, maybe less great by itself.

Vile Leadership – Leadership except you get to be a jerk to your followers.

Part 4.3: Building Towards a Diabolist (Traits):

There are just a few traits that might be specifically useful to you. If none of these look interesting, take something that gives you a bonus to Knowledge (planes), Bluff, Diplomacy, or to Will saves. Or, heck, just take Reactive. You’re never going to go wrong with +2 Init.

Asmodean Demon Hunter -- You gain a +3 trait bonus on Knowledge (planes) checks about demons and a +2 trait bonus on Will saves against mind-affecting spells and effects from demons. Take this if you’re going to occasionally walk on the wild side and call demons, or if you’re playing Wrath of the Righteous.

Charlatan (gnome) – Sacrifice a spell or spell slot to gain an instant bonus to one Bluff check equal to the level of the spell lost. Situational, but fun. At higher levels you’ll have spells and slots to burn, and you’ve chosen a profession where sometimes you’ll just really need to make a convincing lie.

Dark Magic Affinity (tiefling) – Whenever you cast a spell with the [evil] descriptor, you act as if you were one level higher for the purpose of determining that spell’s effects. That’s an extra damage die on your Hellfire spells, and an extra day of service from your bindings.

Family Connections (tiefling) – You get +2 on Bluff and Diplomacy against evil outsiders.

Inspired – Once per day as a free action, roll twice and take the better result on a skill check or ability check. A good-to-great trait for anyone, but excellent for a Diabolist or any other planar calling character. Win those Cha checks!

Planar Negotiator (aasimar) – Whenever you cast one of the planar ally spells, you receive a 10% discount on the monetary cost required by the summoned outsiders. A very nice trait indeed for a diabolist cleric.

Planar Savant -- Use Cha instead of Int when making Knowledge (planes) checks. Good for sorcerors!

True Name Caller – “Choose a plane other than the Material Plane. When attempting to discover the true name of an outsider from the chosen plane, you halve the amount of research time required and gain a +4 trait bonus on the Knowledge (planes) check made to learn the outsider’s name.” If you’re planning to research true names, this is a must-have.

Wicked Leader – Benefit(s): You gain a +1 trait bonus on Charisma checks against evil creatures. If you select the Leadership feat or the Vile Leadership feat, you can recruit a cohort who is up to 1 level lower than you (instead of the normal 2 or more levels) as long as your cohort is evil.

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Part 3.1: Who Should Play a Diabolist? (Classes):

Arcanist – The Arcanist makes a perfectly respectable Diabolist, but if you want to play an arcane caster, you’re probably a bit better off with a wizard or sorcerer. Like the sorcerer, the arcanist has slower spell progression and a limited number of spells, but like the witch and wizard, he has to split his stats between Int and Cha. While there are many interesting arcanist exploits, none of them are specifically useful in calling, binding and otherwise dealing with conjured outsiders. (The Potent Magic exploit does allow you to add +2 to your spell DCs, which is handy when dealing with creatures with high saves.) The arcane reservoir does help you build an interesting blaster, so there’s that. If you want to play an Arcanist, consider the Eldritch Font archetype, as it is mildly helpful both for blasting and for dealing with conjured fiends.
Alchemist -- The alchemist is a very poor choice for playing a diabolist, as alchemists do not have access to the Planar Binding spells. An alchemist could still get some benefit from this class by dipping 1-2 levels in order to gain the imp companion and the Channel Hellfire power, but there would be little point in continuing further.

Bard -- The bard is another poor choice for playing a diabolist, as bards do not have access to the Planar Binding spells. (Bards can take the Legato Piece on the Infernal Bargain masterpiece, which acts like a modified Planar Ally spell.) That said, there are some interesting possible synergies here. Like the alchemist, a bard could still get some benefit from this class by dipping 1-2 levels. Also, as a Cha-based caster, bards will be able to leverage their Charisma in dealing with devils, even if they cannot themselves conjure them. Bards are also better able to pay the skill taxes to enter this class, and skill such as Diplomacy and Sense Motive are always going to be useful in dealing with intelligent and powerful outsiders. The bard moves from red to orange in a campaign where devils are common anyway, even if she can't call them herself.

Cleric – You’re stuck with Planar Ally, and the Diabolist’s poor BAB progression will hurt you in melee. If you can live with that, there are things to like about the cleric: fast spell progression, lots of useful utility spells, and you can leverage other aspects of this PrC. Enter it early, enjoy your imp companion, and blast a lot with Hellfire admixture.

There are basically two good ways to build a clerical Diabolist, and both use domains. One is to pick up the Void domain. (In Golarion, the only way to do this is via the Lawful Neutral deity Maat. Alternately, you could play a Separatist cleric and take Void as your second domain.) That gives you access to all three Planar Binding spells! It also gives you two useful domain powers – the 8th level one in particular is pretty brutal if you build toward it. The other option is the Devil subdomain (accessible via the Law and Evil domains, so there are about a dozen different ways to get it). This is very thematic, but gives you access to Planar Binding only. Still, that’ll keep you happy from levels 11 through 15, and after that the Planar Ally spells will start to be useful at higher levels as their (relative) cost starts to drop.

If you do play a cleric, you should play either a human or a tiefling, because both of these get the same favored class bonus: an astonishing +1/level against the SR of outsiders. Take this at every level of cleric. As a Diabolist, being able to consistently hammer outsiders with spells will be far more useful than a few extra hp or skill ranks. (And since most outsiders have SR equal to CR + 10, once you have +10 or more on your SR checks you can go back to taking hp or skill ranks anyway.)

Magus -- The diabolist's slow BAB progression and d6 HD make this PrC unattractive to any class that spends time in melee. Taking diabolist levels also means giving up Arcane Pool points and losing many useful class attributes, such as the Knowledge Pool, medium armor proficiency, and so forth. And, of course, the magus does not have access to Planar Binding spells. Like the alchemist, the magus can gain some interesting benefits from dipping 1-2 levels of diabolist, most notably the ability to swap Hellfire into a normal touch attack spell -- very useful when fighting (for instance) an angel with resistance 10/electricity against the magus' normal Shocking Grasp attack. However, even this is limited by the fact that it relies on Charisma -- not usually a magus' strong suit.

Inquisitor – No access to Planar Binding, and slow spell progression. Dipping a couple of Diabolist levels for the Imp Companion and Hellfire could be viable. Note that while the Inquisitor is a bad class for becoming an advanced Diabolist, several of the Inquisitor class attributes -- Monster Lore, stern gaze, the teamwork feats – make the Inquisitor a fine companion or cohort.

Oracle – A Cha-based caster, which is good, but otherwise basically a feebler cleric, with no access to Planar Binding and a lot fewer spells. Unfortunately, most revelations and mysteries don’t add much value for a Diabolist. The notable exception is the Outer Rifts mystery: it gets all three Planar Binding spells, and has two or three moderately useful revelations. It’s demon-themed, but could still make a perfectly respectable Diabolist. If you combine the Outer Rifts with the Seeker archetype, you’re now more blue than green, because the Seeker gets +4 on all checks to overcome SR. Combine this with the Outer Rifts revelation that gives you another +4 against SR (yup, they stack), throw in Spell Penetration and you can pretty much ignore spell resistance. That’s huge, and almost offsets the Oracle’s weakish spell list. I think it’s still half a notch behind the wizard and sorcerer, but if you want to play an oracle Diabolist, this is the way to go.

Sorceror -- The sorceror enjoys one huge advantage in entering this class: she is a Cha-based caster, and so will already have a high Cha for making opposed checks against devils and for gaining extra uses of the Channel Hellfire power. This is such a great convenience that it might seem to make the sorceror the obvious "best" class. However, the sorceror faces some significant disadvantages as well.

First, the sorceror is relatively starved for feats and (especially) skills. The wizard will get a very useful feat at 5th level, just before becoming a Diabolist; the sorceror must wait until 7th level, which means either delaying entry or giving up the feat. (More likely the latter, as most bloodlines do not provide feats that are specifically useful for a Diabolist.) The sorceror also gets only 2 skill points/level and is not likely to have a very high Int. A nonhuman sorceror with a 10 Int, or a human sorceror with a 9 Int or lower, will not even be able to become a Diabolist until 8th level because of the class's skill requirements. Even a sorceror who gets 3 skill ranks/level will find herself painfully starved for skills throughout her career.

Second, the sorceror's slower spell progression and limited spell selection impose real constraints on a Diabolist, especially for the first few levels in the class. The sorceror must wait an additional level for each Planar Binding and Summoning spell. So while the 9th level wizard is marching into the dungeon surrounded by his retinue of devils, the poor 9th level sorceror is stuck casting Summon Monster IV and the very occasional Planar Binding from expensive scrolls. Things don't get much better when the sorceror reaches 10th level, because if she takes Planar Binding it will be her only known 5th level spell -- and if she uses one of her precious 4th level "spells known" slots on Dimensional Anchor, that leaves a grand total of two other spells known over third level. This class gets a lot of use out of utility spells (see below), and that can place real pressure on a sorceror’s limited spell slots.

To be sure, there are workarounds for these problems: scrolls, wands, cohorts, party members. But the restrictions on the sorceror are stringent enough to move the class from "clearly the best" to "competitive". Broadly speaking, if you’re playing a character up from 1st level, it’s probably better and easier to go with a wizard or witch. If you’re creating a high (14+) level character from scratch, then a sorcerer can really shine.

Summoner -- Although the summoner has access to Planar Binding spells, this class is still a weak choice for a diabolist. Diabolist levels do not count towards the evolution of a summoner's eidolon, and the summoner's slow spell progression means that access to higher-level planar binding spells is greatly delayed.

Witch -- A witch can make a respectable diabolist if one problem is overcome: the witch’s painfully limited spell selection, which skips most of the spells that are important and useful for Diabolists. Witches typically do not have access to the Planar Binding spells and/or other spells (Magic Circle, Dimension Anchor, etc), so they have to use scrolls and wands for the bindings and items, allies or cohorts for the associated utility feats. The notable exception is the Dimensions patron, which gives access to all three spells. This patron (and the associated Dimensional Occultist archetype) make fine Diabolists. The Boundaries patron is also worth a look.

Like the sorceror, the witch will be short on feats. Entering a prestige class at 6th level means giving up hexes and patron spells. This is particularly annoying since many witch hexes get a "bump" in duration or power at 8th level. On the plus side, the witch has at least two basic hexes that can help with conjuring devils. The Fortune hex can be used to "reroll any ability check, attack roll, saving throw, or skill check, taking the better result". Under the RAW, this would appear to allow the witch to double-roll an opposed Cha check to compel a conjured devil to service. Check to make sure your DM agrees; if he does, this becomes an extremely powerful tool, especially at higher levels. The Evil Eye hex can also be used against devils to tip the scales even further in your favor -- while it only affects a single check, it ignores Spell Resistance and does not allow a save.

Finally, note that a Diabolist witch will now have an imp companion and a familiar too. This opens up some interesting options in terms of action economy. If nothing else, the imp can take a shape identical to your familiar, making it harder for enemies to target your precious, precious spellbook.

Wizard -- The wizard is the mirror image of the sorceror: he enjoys a number of advantages (an extra useful feat, many more skill ranks, faster spell progression, better spell selection) but has one major disadvantage: wizards usually dump Cha. If you want to play a Diabolist wizard, you need to have a respectable Cha: certainly 10, preferably 12, and 14 if you can somehow swing it. On a point buy system, this means losing out somewhere else, and that hurts. You’ll also want to throw some money at Cha-boosting items, which will detract from the funds available for other stuff. But otherwise, the wizard is a very strong pick, and is probably the best class for this PrC overall.

Most of the wizard archetypes are not very useful for a Diabolist, but the Spell Sage does provide a +4 ECL spell one to three times per day plus access to cleric, druid and bard spells. Normally the price for this (giving up both arcane bond and a school) is so high that it’s unattractive, but for a Diabolist this is actually a plausible option – yes, you’re losing a lot of spells, but you’ll hit extra hard two or three times a day, and you’re in the kind of career where that’s a real plus. Also, lacking a familiar hurts less when you have an imp companion. I’d say this is a less attractive (though still viable) option if you’re playing a character from 1st level, but a very intriguing option indeed if you’re building a high level character.

Part 3.1.1: Bloodlines for Sorceror Diabolists:

There’s no bloodline that’s clearly superior for Sorcerors who want to be diabolists. Infernal is thematic, and gives you Planar Binding as a bonus spell, but otherwise it doesn’t really give you anything special. (Well, okay, you can cast Charms at +2. Devils have good Will saves, but you could try.) The bloodlines that are usually considered good (Arcane, Fey) are still good. The bad ones are still bad. Rakshasa’s +5 to Bluff when lying is maybe a bit more attractive. Celestial is thematic and has good spells and feats. Destined’s Touch of Destiny can be useful for skill checks and if you ever get to 9th level in sorcerer, the ability to reroll against SR once/day is a good thing to have. The Harrowed bloodline is respectable – better saves, free lesser confusion, and the bloodline arcana really should apply to your imp divinations. Deep Earth, build your conjuring room underground – if both you and the target are underground, you get +1 DC to all spells.

The tattooed sorcerer archetype is potentially interesting: you get a familiar, and Spell Tattoo is handy. Remember, that +1 ECL counts towards overcoming spell resistance!

Part 3.1.2: Schools for Wizard Diabolists:

Abjuration -- This is a weak school for most purposes, but for a Diabolist it's actually just fine. 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] (a very important skill once you start researching true names), 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 a bluish-green. It’s 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. It would be solid blue, except that in order to gain these benefits you have to 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 solid school for you. The Admixture subschool is great for a blaster, and you'll end up with five energy types instead of four.

Illusion -- Thematic, but not a good choice mechanically. Devils have good Will saves, and 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.

Part 3.2: Who Should Play a Diabolist? (Races):

Picking a race is pretty straightforward: you want a good casting stat and decent Cha. That eliminates anyone who takes a Cha bump – sorry, dwarves and standard tieflings. For witch and wizard diabolists, the good core races in order are human (stat bump, feat, skills), elf (int bump, spell penetration), half-elf (stat bump, de facto feat, two favored classes), and half-orc (stat bump). For sorcerers, the list goes human, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling. Minor but helpful alternate racial traits include eye for talent, dual talent, and focused study (human), sacred tattoo and skilled (half-orc), and academician, explorer, gift of tongues, and pyromaniac (gnome). If you’re an elf or gnome and have a feat to spare, consider Breadth of Knowledge – a fine feat for any character, but especially handy for making those Knowledge (Planes) checks.

Of the noncore races, the dhampir makes a respectable sorcerer or oracle and some of the variant tieflings have potential (grimspawn, beastbrood). Drow have good Cha, a bit of spell resistance and the interesting blasphemous covenant alternate racial trait. The aasimar alternate racial traits of celestial crusader and exalted resistance are potentially very useful to a diabolist, and several of the variant aasimars can make fine diabolists, particularly the idyllkin, angelkin, and the peri-blooded. Finally, a kitsune sorcerer can make an interesting diabolist if you pick the fey bloodline, take the favored class bonus and go all-in on enchantment – by 12th level your compulsion spells will be at +6, making you one of the few casters who can regularly compel high-Will outsiders with magic.

Oh, and then there’s the Samsaran. The Samsaran should be a simple green, good but not great: Int boost, no Cha boost, +2 on two skills. However, nobody plays the Samsaran except to get access to the Mystic Past Life racial trait. Personally, I view this trait as broken and would discourage players from taking it… but if your DM is a softie, then yes, this opens up all kinds of strange possibilities. Most obviously, it gives Planar Binding and Planar Ally spells to classes that don’t normally have access to them – inquisitors and oracles for Planar Ally, witches and magi and bards for Planar Binding. I suspect this could be very abusable, but the details are beyond the scope of this already lengthy guide.

Part 3.3: Dipping a Diabolist:

The Diabolist is unusual among Paizo PrCs in that it is very dippable. A single level of Diabolist gives you +2 on all Cha checks with devils and an imp companion. The imp companion is a very attractive, as it advances along with your character class levels. (Further discussion of uses for the imp companion can be found below.) A second level of Diabolist gives the Channel Hellfire power, which is very nice for blaster characters and/or anyone who is regularly facing good-aligned opponents. This second level is particularly attractive to magi and other touch monkeys, ask they can swap in Hellfire when facing creatures that are resistant to their normal touch spells. It also gives Infernal Bargain, which is good for clerics and oracles.

The only significant disadvantage to dipping? You’re going to stay Damned. Try not to die.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Diabolist is one of the most interesting of Paizo's PrCs. It's a bit specialized, and comes with several strings attached. But if this is the kind of character that you want to play, the Diabolist is both flavorful and surprisingly powerful. Do you want to sign deals in blood with the servants of Hell? Do you want to go into combat behind a wave of glaive-wielding barbed devils, with a nasty little accuser devil scouting out your enemies, and a snickering imp companion perched on your shoulder? Do you like burning paladins with hellfire? Then this may be the prestige class for you.

[This document originally included a long discussion of the Planar Binding spell. That’s been split off into DMDM’s Guide to Planar Binding.]

Part 0: What does a Diabolist do?:

A Diabolist can do various things, but here’s the big one: she calls up outsiders to do fight her battles and more generally serve her needs. That’s what this PrC is all about.

Part 1: Class Requirements:

The Diabolist has the following class requirements.

Alignment: Lawful neutral, lawful evil, or neutral evil. From a mechanical point of view, there is a slight advantage to being lawful neutral. After all, you also get many of the benefits of being evil (bossing around devils, throwing hellfire) without being vulnerable to spells and effects that target evil characters (detect evil, protection from evil, paladin smites). Hanging on to a neutral alignment may be difficult, however. You're already damned to Hell just by dint of being a Diabolist, and you're going to be regularly calling up creatures who actively want to commit evil acts. Alignment is a tricky issue that varies from campaign to campaign, but don't be too surprised if you find that after some time playing this class the "N" in your alignment is looking more and more like an "E".

One oddity of the Diabolist is that there’s nothing in the class text that specifically says you lose your powers if you change your alignment away from the permitted one. (By way of comparison, the Souleater and Demoniac PrC descriptions both specifically include text that says changing alignment costs you all your PrC powers.) This suggests that, under RAW, you could enter this class as LE and then switch to LG or whatever. However, you would still be Damned, summoning devils is still an inherently evil spell, and you have to imagine Hell would have some fairly severe in-game checks against defection. A White Diabolist might make an interesting (if short-lived) NPC, but unless I had an abnormally mellow and forgiving DM I wouldn’t care to try this as a player.

Language: Infernal. Note that this means you must either be a race that has Infernal as a starting language, or have a positive Int modifier, or put one rank into Linguistics.

Skills: Knowledge (planes) 5 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 3 ranks, Spellcraft 5 ranks. This is a total of 13 skill ranks, which means that if you are playing a character with less than 3 skill ranks/level (a nonhuman sorceror, a human cleric who dumped Int, etc.) then you won't be able to enter the Diabolist class until 8th level.

Special: Must have conjured a devil using lesser planar ally or lesser planar binding (or a similar spell) and successfully coaxed the fiend into performing a task longer than 1 day. You are allowed to do this by casting from a scroll, which means it is possible to start on your career as a Diabolist at 6th level. You should seriously consider this, as the Diabolist's class attributes are noticeably more powerful if you can access them at lower levels.

Entering this class at 6th 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.

Damned: When a diabolist is killed, her soul is instantly sent to Hell. Any character attempting to resurrect her must succeed at a caster level check equal to 10 + the diabolist's level or her spell fails. That character cannot attempt to resurrect the diabolist again until the following day, though other characters can attempt as they please. Strictly speaking this is a class attribute gained at first level rather than a requirement. I group it here because it means that "must be willing to be damned" is a requirement for this PrC. Also, from a mechanical standpoint, it means that for the next four levels -- until you get your Hellish Soul on -- you need to live very, very carefully. You should discuss the implications of this with fellow party members, as they're the ones who'll be raising you. If they end up failing a check to claw your black soul back from the clutches of Moloch, they’re the ones who will have to cough up another 5,000 gp out of the party treasury to try again. It may go down a bit easier if they're aware of the possibility in advance.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Damnation feats and the Diabolist:

The Champions of Corruption splatbook has rules for damnation if you want to take the “Damned” feat chains. Since at least one of these chains is really attractive for a Diabolist (see below), you might be tempted to. Unfortunately, the damnation rules there aren’t consistent with the damnation rules given for this PrC. The biggest difference is, the more of those feats you take, the harder it is to bring you back from the dead – whereas a Diabolist’s Hellish Soul (see below) says you can be raised and resurrected as normally once you have it. Then of course the Damned story feat (which is excellent for Diabolists – see below) has yet another mechanic for damnation: it just says that you can’t be returned to life unless whatever outsider you’ve pledged your soul to allows it.

If you’re thinking about any of these feats, make sure you get a rules interpretation from your DM first as to which rule prevails. (At this writing, there is no FAQ or official answer from Paizo.) You wouldn’t want to get this wrong and end up, you know, damned to Hell.

Part 2: Class Attributes of the Diabolist:

Imp Companion – You get this excellent class attribute at first level.

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, which means it doesn’t care if you weave in and out of this PrC.

One popular option is to give the imp a wand and use it 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 worth a look. In any event, make sure you have your imp cast augury and commune regularly – knowledge is power, and these are very useful spells.

At lower levels the imp can be occasionally useful in combat. With Beast Shape II it gains +6 to strength (and you can bump that to +8 if you’re human and take Eye for Talent). Have it turn into a deinonychus and pounce on people. Once you start conjuring devils regularly, the imp can retire from combat and go back to perching on your shoulder and giggling evilly.

Losing your imp: 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 a new companion with a friendly, "I hope you don't fail me as pathetically as your late predecessor"?

Infernal Charisma – At 1st level, diabolist gains a +2 bonus on all Charisma checks made when interacting with devils. This bonus increases to +4 at 4th level and to +6 at 7th level. This is just fantastically useful if you’re going to use the Planar Binding spells regularly. Are you a mopey little wizard with a 10 Cha? By 12th level you can be a Wiz 5/Diabolist 7 and devils will act like your Cha is 22. And that’s before buffs. This class ability makes devils listen to you and do what you say, and it’s a big part of why this class is so great for wizards.

Channel Hellfire -- At 2nd level, a diabolist can alter spells that deal energy damage to instead deal hellfire damage. You can do this as a free action a number of times per day equal to her Charisma modifier (minimum 1). Hellfire is a special energy type that does half fire damage, half unholy damage. Unholy = no damage to evil creatures, normal to neutral creatures, and double damage to good-aligned creatures. So if you throw a six HD fireball at a paladin, but swap in Hellfire at the last moment (free action!), the champion of goodness takes 9 HD of damage. Obviously this is very situational – your target has to be Good-aligned, and you have to know that – but when it works, it’s awesome.

A note here on blasting. The Maleficium feat chain from Champions of Corruption gives you bonuses to spells you cast with the Evil descriptor. Alas, only a relative handful of spells have the Evil descriptor… except for you. When you Channel Hellfire, whatever spell you cast gains the Lawful and Evil descriptors. So if you take the first two Maleficium feats, you can potentially add +1 to the save DC and +2 to the caster level of any blast you throw. So, there’s some potentially great synergy here! Three cautions, though. One, make sure you’re clear on which damnation rules your DM is using (see above). Two, the Diabolist is already a feat-hungry PrC; make sure you have the feat slots available to exploit this. And three, you Channel Hellfire number of times/day equal to your Cha modifier, so to really exploit this you need to either be a sorcerer or be a wizard who’s willing to invest in a decent Cha.

Infernal Bargain -- At 2nd level, a diabolist making use of planar ally (or a similar spell) can make an opposed Charisma check against a called devil. (This of course includes your Infernal Charisma bonus.) If you succeed, the devil reduces the price it demands to serve by half. This is a sop to those poor divine casters who have to use Planar Ally instead of Planar Binding. It moves Planar Ally from being a not very good spell to being a mediocre-to-okay one. Unfortunately it only works against devils.

Augment Summoning -- At 3rd level, you gain the Augment Summoning feat even if you don’t meet the prerequisites. This is nice, but this class emphasizes calling creatures, not summoning them. Still, it’s a fine feat, and you’re getting it for free. Basically this encourages you to keep an occasional Summon Monster spell for when you suddenly need low-level mooks or creatures to test a corridor for traps. Note that this fulfills the requirements for the Sacred Summons and Superior Summons feats, if you’re interested in those.

Heresy -- Also at 3rd level, you gain a +2 bonus on all checks made to research specific devils' true names or sigils. This bonus increases to +4 at 9th level. If your campaign allows for this sort of thing (and it should), this is a nice little sweetener. Only works on devils, alas.

Hellish Soul – “At 5th level, a diabolist has been deemed useful enough to the cause of Hell to be allowed a brief respite from damnation. If killed by any means outside of the will of Asmodeus, the archdevils, or another influential force in Hell, the diabolist can be resurrected as normal.” Basically this undoes the mechanical issue with the “Damned” status. Breathe easy.

Infernal Transport (Sp) – At 6th level, you can transport yourself through Hell in a burst of brimstone. You may use this ability twice per day as per dimension door, or expend both uses to travel as if using teleport. You cannot use this ability to enter or leave areas warded against evil creatures. – Yes, you get to “bamf” like Nightcrawler. By the time you get this (minimum level 11th) it’s not nearly as amazing as it would have been at lower levels, but it’s still a nice tactical ace in the hole. Note that while a spell-like ability does provoke AoOs, it doesn’t have verbal or somatic components, so you can use it to escape from grapples. It also lets you teleport along with your conjured creatures. And it’s a handy escape hole if things go terribly wrong. You summon something powerful, roll a 1 on your Charisma check, and it breaks out of your circle, crits your barbarian cohort and comes after you with blood on its talons and death in its eyes? Poof, you’re out of there.

Hellfire Ray (Sp) -- At 8th level, a diabolist may use hellfire ray twice per day. Another ability that would have been amazing at lower levels but is merely okay by the time you get it. Still, let’s not turn our noses up at the chance to do 22d6 of damage to a good-aligned enemy with a ranged touch attack.

Master Conjurer – “At 10th level, when a diabolist calls a devil whose name she knows, she may cast the calling spell as a standard action and bargain with it as a move action. She adds half her Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate modifier on the bargaining Charisma check (if any).” This implies that you’re skipping the whole magic circle and dimensional anchor thing and cutting straight to business. You call, make a Cha check, and either win or lose. If you lose, well, you might have a small problem on your hands, especially if you were casting Greater Planar Binding. (And don’t forget that a 1 is still an autofail.) OTOH, if you win… well, at 15th level a Summon Monster VIII will summon monsters that are CR 10 or 11. With this, you can use a Greater Planar spell – same level, same net casting time – to call a CR 16 cornugon. Put another way, this lets you situationally use Greater Planar Binding or Planar Ally as a cheaper and better alternative to Gate.

Unfortunately, this is extremely situational: you must know the devil’s name, you must have the spell ready or on a scroll, and you have to be in a situation where you need the devil right now instead of 20 minutes from now. If it ever all came together, it could be quite something. And goodness knows it’s thematic – you snap your fingers and, poof, something horrible appears. But it’s so finicky that you might want to ignore the 9th and 10th levels of Diabolist and go back to progressing in your main class.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Man, this thing just keeps growing. It's about 30 pages in Microsoft Word, and it shows no sign of shrinking. Paizo keeps printing splatbooks with new feats and items! What can you do.

Also, to be fair, this is not just a guide to the Diabolist. It has metastasized bloated evolved into a general guide to building a character around the Planar Binding or Planar Ally spells. Taken together with DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, this should allow you to either build some extremely cool and fun characters, or (if that's your thing) some extremely overpowered ones. There are also some tips for DMs, since Diabolists and other planar binders can make fun and dangerous NPCs.

Going to post this in chunks, since it's very long. Comments are of course extremely welcome.

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Sacred Grove has had two Keepers for centuries. One is always male and one is always female. Their races vary; they may be a human and an elf, or a dwarf and a gnome, or whatever. Even monstrous races like gnolls and orcs have occasionally been represented. The general assumption is that when one Keeper gets old, he or she lies down and merges with the Grove, and a new Keeper appears as a pilgrim, right on time.

The general assumption is wrong. It's been the same two Keepers for all these centuries. They're high enough level to cast Reincarnate, yes? Here's a little-noted thing about Reincarnate: it reboots you in a young adult body, restarting the count towards the next age category. So whenever one of the two starts slowing down a bit, the other takes a sacred sickle, cuts his or her throat, puts most of the body in the compost pile -- waste not, want not -- and then casts Reincarnate on a finger or whatever. A week or two to shake off the negative levels, and voila: a new Keeper has arrived.

The two Keepers have a relationship that has lasted through the centuries, in part because swapping bodies every decade or two helps keep it fresh. Whether this is adorable or pervy is up to you.

-- Plot seed: One of the Keepers has information from centuries ago... the true name of a wizard-king who's now a powerful lich, the location of the magic sword that can save the kingdom, what have you. The PCs must first find the Keepers and then persuade him or her to help. (For best results, the Keepers should be comfortably more powerful than the PCs, and not an exact match in alignment.)

-- Plot seed: One of the PCs serves Pharasma or a similar god of death. And Pharasma has had it with these two -- Raise Deads are one thing, but these guys have been in and out of the Boneyard so many times that some of the junior psychopomps have started a betting pool on when the next pass will be. It's an affront to the dignity of Death, is what it is. It's time for these two to move on...

-- Plot seed: The Keepers' relationship has been growing gradually dysfunctional. Now one of them desperately wants out... s/he has fallen out of love with the other Keeper, is tired of the cycle of rebirth and wants to live a life beyond the Grove, even if it means accepting true death. But of course, the other Keeper doesn't see things that way. What was once a loving symbiosis has now become an increasingly abusive relationship. And just then, the PCs come along...


Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Gate is a 9th level arcane spell that goes all the way back to First Edition. Oddly, nobody seems to have done a writeup on it for PF yet, so I'm going to give it a shot.

Using Gate as transport. Gate has has two distinct functions. One is to open a gate to another plane. This one is pretty straightforward -- it's a gate that you and your party (and a bunch of other people, if you like) can walk through. It can go to any other plane that you're aware of, including demiplanes; a deity or other planar ruler can choose to block you, but otherwise it's auto-success. You arrive exactly where you like, with none of the annoying imprecision of Plane Shift. No holding hands, either -- you just walk through.

Drawbacks? Well, you can't use it to move between points on the same plane, oddly enough -- it's interplanar only. This is a slightly silly restriction, because if you cast Gate twice, you can step across a continent via the Plane of Air, some convenient demiplane, or wherever. And, as noted, a deity or other planar ruler will instantly be aware of your attempt to open a Gate to their plane, and can choose to block you. So, no, you can't Gate into Asmodeus' treasure chamber. (Or more likely, you can, and there's something unspeakably horrible waiting for you. But you can't unless he lets you.)

While a Gate can put you in a demiplane, it's unclear whether you can Gate into an extradimensional space such as exists inside a Portable Hole, Handy Haversack, or Rope Trick. I'd say no, myself, but it seems a judgment call. It's also unclear whether the 6th level divine spell Forbiddance would stop a Gate. It says it stops "all planar travel", but then it lists the spells that are included and Gate isn't on the list. I think a 9th level spell would trump a 6th level spell, myself. By way of comparison, the 8th level spell Dimensional Lock does specifically say that it will stop a Gate.

Note that while Gate puts you down exactly where you want to go -- half a mile outside of the walls of Demogorgon's fortress, 50 feet in front of the north gate of the City of Brass, whatever -- it tells you nothing about what might be waiting for you there. Also, while you hold the Gate open, it's two-way connection: things can come through from the other side. Your DM would be perfectly justified in, at a minimum, rolling a wandering monster check. And if you have enemies with access to good divination magic, an ambush is not out out of the question.

Otherwise, this form of the spell is pretty straightforward: a combination between Plane Shift and Teleport, the cool kids way to backpack around the multiverse.

Using Gate to call and control powerful outsiders. allows you to call any outsider you can think of, with no restrictions as to alignment and no opposed Cha checks. It does not allow a saving throw or spell resistance: you call the creature, it comes. Casting Gate is a standard action that costs you 10,000 gp on the spot. That's just for casting it, before you start bargaining -- so you can't even cast this spell if you don't have 10,000 gp worth of "rare incense and offerings" on hand. When you cast, you can call either a kind of creature ("a pit fiend") or a known individual ("Lord Humungus"). Either way, the spell automatically succeeds -- no save, no SR -- and the creature immediately appears. That's the good news.

There's actually a bit more good news. For creatures whose HD is equal to or less than your caster level, you automatically "control" it. The spell is blurry as to what "control" means here, but I'd say that it's probably comparable to the control exercised by Planar Binding after you've won a Cha check. So the creature does your bidding within reason, as long as you're not ordering it on a suicide mission or to do something that grossly violates its alignment. (The spell is unclear on this point, though, so check with your DM.)

Now the bad news. First, you can't ever get deities or "unique beings". Second, even if you control the creature, you have to pay it for its service. The spell text says that the Planar Ally spells are a guideline here, which suggests that we're talking 500 to 1,000 gp / hit die. That would be 30,000 gp (20,000 plus the 10,000 ante for casting the spell) to gain the services of a 20 HD pit fiend for a while, which doesn't actually sound unreasonable. It's unclear whether feats or other abilities that would affect the cost of Planar Binding would affect this payment.

The spell text says that "Immediately upon completion of the service, the being is transported to your vicinity, and you must then and there turn over the promised reward... Failure to fulfill the promise to the letter results in your being subjected to service by the creature or by its liege and master, at the very least." Again, the details are vague, but I would rule that you would instantly be subjected to the equivalent of a Gate yourself: teleported to the creature's home plane, with no save. What happens after that is up to the DM but, honestly, if you're dumb enough to summon a pit fiend and then try to stiff him, I think you deserve whatever you get.

What else... oh, if you Gate in a creature that has more HD than your level? It is uncontrolled. "An uncontrolled being acts as it pleases, making the calling of such creatures rather dangerous. An uncontrolled being may return to its home plane at any time."

Now, this does not mean that Gating such powerful creatures is always always a bad idea. I can imagine circumstances where this might perhaps work out okay. One might be, you're giving it the chance to do something that is absolutely in line with the creature's goals and ethics, and you're also sweetening the deal with a huge pile of cash and goodies. Another might be, you're turning it loose to do something it would want to do anyway -- i.e., you're calling up a demon or a qlippoth and releasing it on the world to do as much damage as possible. But both of those sound pretty risky; at a minimum, you're giving your DM a huge opportunity to get creative. I'd stick to creatures of your HD or less, myself.

An interesting question is whether, if an uncontrolled creature chooses to assist you, you must then pay it or suffer the consequences. The spell text is not really clear on this point. My inclination would be to say yes -- if the creature helps you in some way, you're on the hook and must pay. Otherwise you end up with lots of legalistic wrangling: "Yes, we were cornered by demons, and yes I gated in a solar angel to save us, but angels kill demons! That's their nature, right? So really I was doing it a favor by giving it an opportunity!"

So, to summarize:

Advantages of using Gate to conjure things: You can get whatever you like, up to your level in HD. It's a standard action. No saves, Cha checks or SR. Creatures with HD equal to or less than your level are automatically called and controlled.

Disadvantages of Gate: It's expensive. Creatures with more HD than your level can be called but are not controlled.

Note that if you have the Augment Calling feat, you can get 20 HD creatures via Planar Ally or Planar Binding without using Gate. That's not always better -- Gate can be cast on the fly, and is far more flexible than Planar Ally. But it does save you that 10,000 gp casting cost.

This is a mini-Guide, so I'm not going to list the creatures you might want to call. There are a lot of them, and while they're all crazy powerful their specific abilities vary greatly. This is a spell that rewards doing your homework.

One last thought: the sorts of creatures you can get with Gate -- Pit Fiends and Solars and whatnot -- are major powers in their own right. They may have minions -- in some cases entire armies -- at their beck and call. Your DM would be perfectly within his rights to give these creatures unexpected resources, including direct connections to deities, artifacts or other hugely powerful magical items, and/or the ability to strike at you even on your home plane. Every campaign is different, but I'd say that Gating in such powerful creatures should never become routine or casual; even at very high levels, this should be a major, game-changing event. Discuss with your DM and see what he thinks.

Thoughts and comments welcome!

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

We already did Lesser Planar Binding, which lets you summon and control outsiders of 6 HD or less (post and thread right here) and plain vanilla Planar Binding, for creatures of up to 12 HD (post and thread). Now let's do Greater Planar Binding, the last and most powerful of the three, which gives you access to outsiders of up to 18 HD!

Here follows a partial list of targets. It's heavily weighted towards evil outsiders, because it grew out of my Guide to the Diabolist. You'll notice it's in order from lowest CR to highest; within a CR, it's alphabetical. Please feel free to either amend or expand existing entries, or create new entries (but in the same format, please, for consistency).

Many thanks in advance,

Doug M.

* * * * *

At these levels you're no longer calling mooks. These creatures are powers in their own right, with minions -- in some cases entire armies -- at their beck and call. Your DM would be perfectly within his rights to give these creatures unexpected resources, including the ability to strike at you even on your home plane. Handle with care.

Imentesh Protean [CR 10, Will +14, Cha 21] – One of the weaker creatures you can call with this spell; for combat purposes you’re better off casting Planar Binding and calling a kolyarut or a hamatula. However, it does have the crazy warpwave power, which has an astonishing 100’ radius, so it’s great for taking out armies or inflicting random mass chaos in population centers. It can also cast Major Creation at will, all day long, which means it’s basically your Minecraft monster. The stuff it creates eventually disappears, but you can have stone walls for 10 hours, or chests full of silver and gold for 100 minutes.

Elder Fire Elemental [CR 11, Will +7, SR 0, Cha 11] -- These guys are very easy to call for a creature of their CR. Of course, by the time you can conjure them, a CR 11 creature may not be all that useful. Still, potentially useful as a terror weapon, especially if you call them in groups.

Malbolgian Cerberi* [CR 12, Will +6, SR 0, Cha 8] -- These are Paizo creatures, but 3.5 (from the Council of Thieves AP, Pathfinder #28), never converted to Pathfinder. If you can convince your DM to allow them anyway, they are wonderful. Not only are they ridiculously easy to conjure for a creature of their CR, but they have the Cerberus' Jaws ability, which prevents bitten creatures from leaving the plane as a curse effect with no save or SR. Are you likely to be facing angry outsiders that can teleport? Well then: invest in three titanium feeding bowls and a couple of tons of Devil Chow, and keep Rover here constantly at heel. Otherwise they're a decent melee creature, basically the next step up from a Nessian Hell Hound.

Ice Devil* (Gelugon) [CR 13, Will +12, SR 24, Cha 20] -- Am I the only one who thinks the Paizo illustration looks like Jiminy Cricket? Anyway. The Gelugon's SLAs are no great shakes, but AC 32 and that nice slow-spell debuff make it very respectable in melee. Interestingly, the ice devil is immune to both fire and cold -- it's a devil, after all, and it does not have the "cold" subtype. So it walks right through fireballs and such, just like every other devil. Its 25 Int means that it can probably out-think you, so be careful. But note that this also means it has a bunch of crazy-high skill and Knowledge bonuses. So if you've got one of these guys around, you can totally to use it to google things.

Marut Inevitable [CR 13, Will +13, SR 26, Cha 24] -- A solid melee brute, and one of the few outsiders to use a sonic attack. Like all inevitables, the marut has that annoying "can't be forced to act against its nature" thing. The marut's particular obsessions is "eliminating those who have unnaturally extended their lives". So if you're going up against a lich or a vampire, the marut should cheerfully cooperate. Well, "cheerfully" by the standards of a giant stomping lawful neutral death robot. Like all the inevitables, a specialized tool.

Handmaiden Devil* (Gylou) [CR 14, Will +10, SR 25, Cha 20] -- Although the Handmaiden has a higher CR than the Ice Devil, it's just about as easy to call and bind. In terms of combat power it's perhaps half a step behind -- but then, the Gyllou isn't really a combat monster. It's a spy, excellent at deception, diplomacy, and disguise. And its weird tentacle cage makes it an excellent kidnapper, too.

Divine Heralds: Heralds are unique servants of deities (Basileus for Asmodeus, the Stabbing Beast for Norgorber, the Old Man for Irori, etc.). They are all CR 15. Unfortunately, they can't be summoned by Planar Binding, ever -- only by Greater Planar Ally, and then only by a worshipper of that particular deity. This is one of the very rare cases in which Planar Ally is better than Planar Binding.

Astradaemon [CR 16, Will +14, SR 27, Cha 24] -- "Astradaemons can only be bribed into service by two things — a feast of souls and the promise to spread death." Since this thing is really only useful as a melee brute, that shouldn't be a problem. Note that its Soul Siphon ability stacks with itself, meaning that if enough creatures die within 10' of it there's almost no limit to how much its Str can increase. Seriously, that's RAW. If it plunges into battle and kills six low-level warriors? It immediately gains 6d8 hp and +12 Str for the next 10 minutes. And it can keep doing that. And if you feed it a 5 HD creature soon after it arrives -- a warhorse or a grizzly bear or something -- it gets +1 on all attacks, saves and checks for the next 24 hours. (Obviously you do this after it's bound.) Call this guy when you expect lots and lots of combat against living foes, especially against piles of low-level mooks.

Horned Devil* (Cornugon) [CR 16, Will +13, SR 27, Cha 23] -- The cornugon is another pure melee brute. You call it up to smash things and commit carnage. It's not terribly bright for a creature of its raw power (14 Int) so it's less likely than some other devils to come up with a viciously cunning scheme to entrap you. The astradaemon is somewhat better in combat thanks to its soul siphon and energy drain, but the cornugon is a bit easier to call and bind.

Belier Devil* (Bdellavitra) [CR 16, Will +20, SR 28, Cha 24] -- The Belier's sky-high Will save makes it a difficult fiend to catch. And when you do catch it, you have a 3,000 pound leech-slug with three human heads growing out of its backside. Okay, well. You would use the Bdellavitra to possess someone with its magic jar ability. Sure, you could possess them yourself -- but the Bdellavitra is a face monster, with around +27 on Bluff, Diplomacy, Perception and Sense Motive. Use the Gyllou to kidnap the prince, then use the Belier to replace the prince. Note that this is another super-genius Int 25 devil, though, so handle with extreme care.

Apostate Devil* (Deimavigga) [CR 17, Will +20, SR 27, Cha 28] -- Emphatically not a combat monster (its attacks are quite weak for a creature of its CR), the Deimavigga has an array of strange powers that can be used for all kinds of creative effects. Most notably, given a few days to work, it can permanently change creatures' alignments! Call up this guy if you want to destroy the kingdom; he murders the vizier and takes his place, then with a few words in the king's ear gradually and permanently changes the kindly monarch into a raging tyrant. But have a care -- this devil can directly and physically attack you all the way from Hell. Unless you want to spend the rest of your career cowering inside your Forbiddance-protected private apartments, don't tick off the deimavigga. Only call it up if you can offer it something it would reasonably want, like turning an entire kingdom Lawful Evil or wiping out the local churches of the good gods.

Immolator Devil* (Puragaus) [CR 19, Will +14, SR 30, Cha 24] -- This is the biggest, baddest devil you can get with any Planar Binding spell. And guess what? It has (for a creature of its CR) a mediocre Will save and unimpressive Charisma. It's only a bit harder to call up and bind than a cornugon, but it's much more powerful. I think its official CR of 19 is a bit high, but even at CR 18 this is a pretty good deal. Note, though, that the Immolator has a 24 Int, and it's RAW that they're often commanders of legions of lesser devils. So if you make an enemy of it, the Puragaus is definitely capable of making long-term problems for you.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I note that the print version is now in the "less than 100" category. Despite being several years old, and 3.5, this is an absolutely terrific module that is well worth the few bucks. It's early Nicolas Logue -- that should tell you most of what you need to know right there -- and it's a truly atmospheric, disturbing low-level module.

Highly recommended.

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Don the Diabolist has a problem. Some years back he took an apprentice, Sally the Sorceress. Don is LE and Sally is NE, but that didn't seem a big deal at the time and, gosh, that Charisma score!

But alas: people change. The two evil casters have grown apart. Don has a public identity as a respectable member of the community -- the whole devil-summoning thing is a deeply secret sideline. Sally, on the other hand, has become more malevolent and sadistic over time; she's taken a couple of levels of Souleater and is getting into the whole soul gem thing in a big way. Don has become seriously worried that she'll blow his cover. He's decided that it's time to terminate the apprenticeship. Unfortunately, being Lawful Evil, he has a contract with her, so he can't simply kill her himself. So instead he's bending over backwards to give her free rein, trusting that the usual plucky band of heroes will show up to etc. etc. etc.

This assumes a group of PCs around level 5-7, but can be adjusted for higher levels easily enough.

Encounter 1: the PCs encounter a couple of swaithe demons running amok in the countryside, terrorizing animals and what not. Don summons these guys regularly to "help" Sally; in fact he's counting on her losing control of them, which is exactly what has happened. If the PCs are higher than 6th level, give the swaithes class levels or a template.

In town: the PCs are harassed by Sally and her coven. The base version of this is Sally (sorc 5 / souldrinker 2), a green hag and another swaithe, for a total CR around 7. Fending off Sally's attacks could be a quick encounter or two or a mini-campaign, depending, but this is a chance for you as a DM to give the list of hag coven abilities a real workout. Previous enemies of the coven have ended up Balefully Polymorphed, killed and reanimated as zombies, or stuck in forcecages. Innocent townspeople are being affected by curses and bizarre weather. There are all sorts of weird options here. Note that it's easy to upgrade this by giving Sally more levels, promoting the hag to an annis or even a night hag, and giving the swaithe levels in rogue or assassin.

Don can't act directly against his wayward apprentice, but nothing prevents him from working indirectly to help the PCs: he's a respectable local figure who is worried about these strange events, harumph harumph. Meanwhile, he'll encourage Barbara and her coven to attack the PCs, but in ways that are unlikely to succeed.

Boss fight: the coven should make an interesting tactical challenge for a group of PCs, especially if you play them intelligently and throw in some minions. Again, this can be a straight simple encounter or the end of a dungeon crawl as the PCs fight their way into the coven's headquarters in the town's sewers, in a cave complex a mile outside of town, etc. Note that the coven's treasure will include some soul gems, which could present an interesting problem -- good aligned PCs should want to smash them to free the souls, nongood PCs will know that those things are worth serious cash, man!

Of course, Sally isn't really the boss; that's Don. Whether you want to pick up that thread or not is up to you.


Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

You know there's an e-collection of his adventures, yes?

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
This Side wrote:
Are there any recommendations for how to use the Harrow Deck? I can see how it can be kind of cool, but also kind of gimmicky and not particularly useful at the same time, so I am hesitant to spend my money on it

It... depends? You can do readings and, yes, it's a cool way to foreshadow things. If you're comfortable assigning impromptu meaning to randomly drawn cards, great. If not... well, stack the deck! Pick the cards you want in advance, put them on the top of the deck in order. Then put the deck in the middle of the table and (playing Zellara) ask each player in order to draw a card. Do it like "Draw... explanation... Player #2 draws... gets an explanation" and so forth.

Also, if you use the Harrow points, INCREASE them. By a lot. As it is, they're marginal, minor benefits that are easily forgotten. Make them big enough that players are watching out for an opportunity to use them.

Doug M.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This is a system I whipped up for my PCs to cover a year of "down time" between Burnt Offerings and Skinsaw. It assumes that they'll spend their time in and around Sandpoint, and tries to bind them a bit closer to the town.

There is of course a system in Advanced Campaigns for dealing with down time, but (1) not everyone has that book, and (2) that system is pretty detailed and involves a lot of rolling. This is much simpler: the PC chooses, maybe there's one die roll, something happens (or not).

Comments and input welcome!

Doug M.

* * * * *

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

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

Not all benefits are equally good. This is deliberate.

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

The choices are:

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

Administration: The PC becomes part of the town administration, serving as an assistant to the Mayor or the Sheriff (PC's choice).
Basic: All town leaders become Friendly to the PC. PC learns all basic public information about Sandpoint (who all significant NPCs are, what's available to buy, etc.).
Double: Everyone in town becomes Friendly to the PC, and the Mayor and Sheriff become Helpful. PC gains 200 xp. PC adds +2 to Knowledge (local) rolls in Sandpoint.

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

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

Church: The PC must be a faithful adherent of one of the six gods at the Sandpoint temple (Desna, Erastil, Abadar, Gozreh, Shelyn, Sarenrae). The PC devotes large amounts of time to helping with church ceremonies, bringing food to the poor, etc.
Basic: Father Zantus becomes Helpful. The PC's reputation for piety spreads across the region; gain +2 to reactions from loyal servants of your god anywhere within 100 miles of Sandpoint. If the PC is a cleric or oracle, gain 300 xp; otherwise, gain 100 xp.
Double: As above, plus the PC can select a trait from that god's list of traits.

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

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

Explore Sandpoint Region: The PC spends his or her time exploring Sandpoint and the area around it.
Basic: PC knows the map of Sandpoint and the surrounding region and gains +2 on Knowledge checks (local, geography, history, etc.) in or about Sandpoint. The DM may give the PC one (1) otherwise hidden or unknown true fact about Sandpoint and its environs.
Double: As above, plus PC has access to all nonsecret information about Sandpoint (i.e., everything in the Gazetteer). Make a DC 15 check against a stat of the PC's choice. On a success, the PC has had an encounter that gains 300 xp; otherwise, the PC gains 100 xp.

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

Patrol: Although the goblins have been soundly defeated, they were but one of the numerous tribes in the Sandpoint region. A PC who decides to spend his time patrolling gets into regular skirmishes with small groups of goblins and other minor monsters. There’s no need to play out these combats — you can assume that the PC in question survives each with little more than a few bumps and cuts.
Basic: PC gains 200 gp and 500 xp and becomes familiar with the region around Sandpoint. Shalelu the ranger becomes Helpful and all other martial NPCs become Friendly.
Double: As above, but PC gains 400 gp and 1,000 xp. PC can attempt to start a romance with Shalelu (DC 15 Charisma check; failure means you're still friends).

Practice Magic: The PC practices spellcasting. (Must be a spellcaster, of course.)
Basic: PC gains 300 xp.
Double: Make a DC 20 check against your spellcasting stat. Failure means you gain 500 xp. Success means you make a breakthrough and gain a magical trait.

Reconstruction: The PC spends his time helping repair the damage done to Sandpoint -- rebuilding the houses and shops that the goblins built, tending to widows and orphans, etc.
Basic: The PC comes across a forgotten magic item of his choice, worth up to 2,500 gp.
Double: Same, and the PC also gains Knowledge (Architecture and Engineering) as a class skill.

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

Research (magical): The PC spends the year in magical research. (Must be a wizard, magus, or alchemist.)
Basic: The PC can add three levels of spells to his spellbook or formulae list, and gains 200 xp.
Double: The PC can add six levels of spells to his spellbook or formulae list, and gains 500 xp.

Romance: The PC can choose an NPC on which to focus his romantic attention. Alternately, he can just say he's looking for a serious relationship. (Note that casual sex is covered under "Party/Relax", above.)
Basic: Make a DC 10 Charisma check. Success means the PC has a serious relationship. Failure means the NPC is Helpful but just friends; failure by 5 or more means the NPC is Unfriendly. (Either way, all good-aligned NPCs in town become sympathetic and Friendly to the PC, as long as the PC is nonevil.)
Double: DC of the check drops to 5. If successful, the character’s romantic interest can be treated as a cohort for the PC, although s/he should remain under GM control. Failure means the PC's heart is broken; the PC must make a DC 15 Will save each morning or suffer depression (treat as Fatigued). This effect will continue until 3 days into the next major adventure, at which point the threat of constant death will provide a welcome distraction. PC adds 1 point to his Wisdom score.

Skills practice: The PC picks a single skill and decides to hone it by relentless practice.
Basic: PC gains a +1 trait bonus on the skill. If the PC already has a trait bonus, this has no effect; give the PC 200 xp instead.
Double: PC gains a +2 trait bonus. If the PC already has a trait bonus, the PC instead gains a +4 circumstance bonus to that skill while in Sandpoint only, and 300 xp.

Travel: The PC travels away from Sandpoint. It is assumed that the PC pays his way by acting as a caravan guard or something similar, so this costs no money.
Basic: The PC is exposed to all manner of customs and sights. He can pick a single skill in which he already possesses at least one rank; he gains a +1 circumstance bonus to that skill check from now on.
Double: As above, plus the PC gains 500 xp. The PC can take Knowledge (history) or Knowledge (geography) as a class skill, or learn a single new language.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

A kitsune doesn't make a particularly great blaster. You get +2 Cha, which is nice if you're a Cha-based caster, but otherwise none of the kitsune traits help you blast. Catfolk, same-same. This is not to say you CAN'T play a kitsune or catfolk blaster. You totally can! Just, unless you're playing a sorceror you won't be quite optimal. (And if you're playing a kitsune, you'll want a sideline in enchantment spells.) If you're starting at first level, it will take a while to come in to your own.

A ratfolk, now, could make a fine blaster. +2 Int, +2 Dex, small size... oh yeah. You could go alchemist, sure. But I'd suggest looking up Brewer's Guide to the Blaster Wizard, because it's insane fun, and would work just fine with a ratfolk build. If that's too much trouble, I attach below a variant of a build I developed a while ago. It's a wizard, not an alchemist, but it uses 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 if you pile them on each other, you can get some interesting results.

Ratfolk blaster wizard build:

Ratfolk wizard, 15 point build: Str 6 Con 12 Dex 16 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 Magical Lineage 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; you get racial bonuses to Perception, Stealth, Craft (alchemy) and UMD, so you might as well throw some ranks at those. If you think you might 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 -- AC 18, and when that runs out, you leave. Otherwise, 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. 40 gp is a lot at first level, but 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 +3 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; use it to pick off goblins, finish off injured foes, and the like.

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. At low levels that's a big deal and totally worth 3 gp.

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 -- Put your +1 boost on Int, raising it to 19. 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, and as a blaster you want those save DCs as high as possible. 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 will shut up 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 an Int of 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. So, 24 points off the monsters' ice breath or other cold-themed attacks... and then you get right in among the monsters and cast Fireball centered on yourself. Okay, the party will still take average 23 points of fire damage each, but the cold-based monsters will take average 70.5 each. (And, come on, the party rogue will probably evade.)

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

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 not 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. -- But you asked for a blaster, and this guy would probably fit the bill. Let me know what you think.


Doug M.

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