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Douglas Muir 406's page

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. 9,869 posts (10,011 including aliases). 5 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 alias.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm sorry to hear of your loss.

I very much enjoy reading your updates, and hope you continue with them!

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
VRMH wrote:
I'm interested, but with the enormous amount of different spells a Spell Sage could use... is a guide even doable?

A *complete* Guide? No. As you say, that would involve hundreds of spells and be insanely long. But a collection of useful guidelines and tips that would make the class more interesting and playable? That seems doable.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Bump. Is anyone interested in this?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Okay, not to overthink it, but...

Quote:

If the PCs let Biting Lash know that Njano was the

one who told them how to find her, the gnoll slaver
goes into a fit of rage and immediately lashes out at
one of the PCs. She hopes to kill agents of her greatest
rival and send their broken bodies back to the Hyena
Princess as a lesson to not meddle with her affairs.

But but Kisetz and Hakoor are standing RIGHT THERE. They have ALREADY told Biting Lash that Njano sent the PCs. That is information that Biting Lash ALREADY HAS.

There's actually a super easy fix to this. "Kisetz and Hakoor run to Biting Lash, and warn her that the PCs are actually a group of assassins sent by Njano. They'll pretend to be interested in this Lowls person, but that's a pretext -- their true purpose is to destroy Biting Lash's operation and, if possible, kill her." Bam, done. Bonus: now we have an in-game explanation for Biting Lash's suicidal violence.

But as written, it doesn't make sense.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

As Spatula and Puma have correctly noted, a high level party can simply ignore the whole tower. At this level, spamming Fly and Invisible on the whole party is not only easy, it's almost SOP. Weirder stuff like Magic Jarring a gnoll guard is also on the table. Or just send the party's rogue or monk invisibly up the wall, to drop poison in Biting Lash's snack dish or quietly search the place while she's distracted.

(Or for that matter, the PCs could just *knock on the door and ask politely*. "Hi, we're trying to track down this guy. We'll give you 500 gp if you tell us where he is." "Wait, you've found my secret lair?" "Um, you have like all these guards and slaves, and we found out about it from almost the first person we met, and also I notice you have these two friends of hers standing right next to you, obviously they know too... how secret is it supposed to be?")

But what of Kaklatath? Well, presumably Kaklatath will let the PCs know where she is. Then they can either (1) sneak in and get her out -- dead easy, there's nothing in the whole place that has a Perception score that's going to spot their invisible rogue or monk; or, (2) just buy her. "Oh, and you have an old slave, looks like this. She's my mother's cousin's best friend, sentimental value. We'll give you 500 gold for her."

On the whole, this last part feels like it was dropped in from a different, lower-level module. Tower full of gnoll slavers with a prisoner you must rescue in the middle somewhere, evil boss gnoll at the top? That would be an absolutely great setup for PCs between 5th and 8th level. For 12th level PCs, not so much.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

There's basically nothing in the last section that should give a 12th level party any problems, with the sole exception of the basilisks -- one bad save there, and a party member goes down hard, and having six (!) in a room makes a bad save a real possibility. But that's it. Everything else is gnolls and animals. There aren't even any interesting tactical situations -- it's a straight up crawl from the ground floor to the roof.

Also, while a module inevitably must have a certain number of NPCs and monsters that fight to the death, Biting Lash's behavior makes no sense. If the PCs have marched their way through her fortress, killing everything in their path? "These strangers are obviously incredibly powerful and dangerous, so I should... fly into a rage and attack them, fighting until I am killed!" This is especially silly given that all the PCs want is information. "Oh, is that what you want? Sure, here's this map I drew. That'll be 500 gold. If you're willing to pay for the guards and slaves you killed, I'll tell you everything I know about your friend Mr. Lowls." An evil NPC who is arrogant and has a hair-trigger temper is bog-standard. But an evil NPC who is suicidally aggressive for no reason when there may be an obvious win-win that lets her keep her life and her empire? Umm.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Okay, while I'm here: the whole encounter with the Hyena Princess is likely to go pear-shaped fast if the DM doesn't give her some additional guards and minions. She's an Ari 1/Bard 9, which means that if a party of 12th level PCs wants some information from her, they can probably get it. "Oh, you could undertake this side quest for me -- " "Well, we could do that. Or, you could just [DC 23 Dominate] tell us where to find Biting Lash."

This might lead to the PCs fighting the Princess and her two minions, but what of it? They're almost certainly going to end up fighting the minions anyway. Might as well do it now, before the two have a chance to run off and warn Biting Lash. But if the PCs don't want a confrontation, heck, a DC 19 or 20 Detect Thoughts will probably work about as well. Really, at this level there are just all sorts of things PCs could try -- a bardic performance with Suggestion, an Intimidate check with a sky-high modifier, an invisible imp familiar with wands, you name it. And the Princess is, after all, a gnoll slaver, so it's not like the PCs need feel compelled to play nice.

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

AFAIK Pathfinder doesn't use the 3.5 "reform back on your outer plane" rule for called creatures any more. That's one reason it's canon that they don't like being called. "If you die in Canada, you die in real life" -- an outsider called to Golarion, that dies on Golarion, stays dead.

Same-same with the Hag Countess: 3.5, not Pathfinder. (And let's note that even in 3.5, she only got to rule a little while until Asmodeus allowed her to be overthrown. As it turned out, she was just a chair-warmer for the one he really wanted in charge.) Pathfinder's Hell is noticeably more organized and, well, Lawful than WoTC's. I almost think they've overdone it myself -- it's clear that some of the designers think Asmodeus is the bees' knees; instead of being a mere devil he's now one of the original gods and the Keeper of the Key to the Apocalypse -- but that's what it is. Also, no more Blood War.

"Do Diabolists often find their lairs under siege by infernal squadrons?" -- Well, maybe sometimes, sure. A Diabolist who summons devils to do evil on the mortal plane is basically a subcontractor to Hell. He has some autonomy, but he's broadly serving Hell's goals. (And, of course, it's literally written into the character class that he's already signed his soul over to Hell.) So from Hell's POV, he's just a minion with an unusually long leash. He's allowed to borrow the toys, and reasonable wear and tear is acceptable. Randomly murdering Hell's servants for his own convenience, though? Probably not. In general, if he starts getting uppity, sure he'll get slapped down.

I wrote the Guide to Planar Binding and the Guide to the Diabolist, and in both of those I note that if you screw with extraplanar creatures -- especially Lawful ones like devils, who are part of a hierarchy -- you're basically asking your DM to retaliate. But that idea is hardly original to me. The question came up in the endless Ask James Jacob thread, and his response was basically "darn straight, if they're abusing Planar Binding feel free to have the PC's reputation spread to related outsiders, with consequences".

"I can kill the balor" -- Well, if you're powerful enough to kill a balor, then the argument about not being a blip on Hell's radar sort of falls flat. You can say you're not worth Hell getting concerned about, or you can say you're powerful enough to mow down balors, but you can't really claim both. Also, I'm getting the vibe that we're moving into theorycrafting rather than discussion of actual play. Which can be interesting in its way, but.

[shrug] If y'all are having fun, you're having fun. That's really the last word.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

More generally, what is the point of the final encounter in the Soul? The PCs don't gain any treasure from it, other than a Large-sized +3 flaming longsword that they can't easily use. The only information they gain is that Lowls has grabbed the Necronomicon and teleported away, and it's really hard to believe that they don't know this by now.

Elder Thyrr knows that Lowls and Mun were after the Necronomicon, and she discusses this with the PCs before they even enter the Mysterium. (Page 24: "If she believes the PCs are truly there to find Lowls and Mun, and if they promise to return the Necronomicon if they find it, she lets them know some of the things they can expect once they enter the library.") From the moment they set foot in the Mysterium, they can reasonably assume that Lowls reached the book. The only remaining question is whether he's still inside, and whether they'll catch him and get the book back. So the only thing they gain from the fight in the Soul is the knowledge that [sad trombone] no, he got away. And this is information they could get any number of other ways, from simple divination spells to simple deduction.

The whole final encounter just seems like a huge letdown. You unlock the dangerous trap, you enter the final room, you fight a boss monster, and... the bad guy is long gone, taking the McGuffin and leaving nothing behind. Treasure? Nope. Astonishing revelations? Mission-critical information? Mmm... nope. Okay, what about all these cool books? You got nothin'. Oh hey RING RING your Yithian friend is skyping you with another breadcrumb. Time to get back on the plot train! The bad guy scarpered, but maybe you can still catch him!

(Kaklatath obviously knows that Lowls got the book and teleported away; at the end, he projects an image of exactly those events into the PC's minds. So why doesn't he save the PCs a huge amount of trouble and just project it into their minds before they even enter the Mysterium? "Don't bother, kids -- your jerkass ex-boss has already grabbed the bad book and moved on. Here's my best guess as to where he is now." Yes, Kaklatath is a profoundly alien creature, but the PCs are the only ones who can save him. Why place them at unnecessary risk?)

Is it just me? Has anyone played through this yet; and if so, how'd it play out?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thinking about it: the exscinder could have simply used his Censor ability to wipe out all the books, leaving nothing but blank pages. That's fair under RAW, and even makes in-game sense. But then, shouldn't the adventure tell us this?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What about all the books in the Soul of the Mysterium? It's specifically stated that there are a number of other books there, sitting on podiums or hanging from the ceiling on chains. The moment the PCs finish that last combat, they'll want to start looting, or at least rummaging. But we're not given a single word about what those books might be, or how to deal with this.

This seems sort of a large omission.

Doug M.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Crimson Throne: The orphanage went bankrupt after a few "bad apple" goblins ruined it for everyone. Lamm generously offered to take it over. Of course, he simply fired the existing staff and enslaved all the kids.

This one comes with a couple of plot hooks: (1) the former staff may still be out there. They're good and kindly people, the sorts who would, well, run a goblin orphanage. You could run into them through the course of the AP; at low levels they can offer help, later on they can be threatened by the Blood Veil or whatever. (2) the "bad apple" goblin graduates of the orphanage are still out there. One or more may turn up working for the Spider King, or Pilts, or even the Queen. They're determined to live down to their reputation and they have nothing but contempt for the PCs who have swallowed a bunch of lies and turned themselves into weird un-goblin longshank-wannabes.

Oh, and (3) because of the "failure" of the orphanage, almost everyone in Korvosa dislikes and distrusts goblins. Having everyone start with a default attitude of Unfriendly is going to be tricky if you don't have a face in the party -- and goblin characters don't make the best faces -- but if your players are up for it, it could be an interesting challenge. Sworn to protect a city that hates and fears them...

Doug M.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Baval wrote:


Ive done it plenty of times, Im in fact doing it now to get a set of Fiends of Possession Succubus to possess me for bonuses (3.5 has rules for possessing creatures buffing items and people)

This gets into "if I were your DM..." territory, and there's no percentage in that. If both of you are having fun, then great.

Quote:
Besides, as a necromancer I would totally be down for the DM to have an army of devils come to try and hunt me down. The roleplaying options would be glorious. No kingdom is going to just let an army of devils march around, so suddenly they have to team up...

Well, I guess if your DM is playing devils as really stupid. Since a lot of them have 20+ Int and Wis, and it's canon that they're devious and subtle, that seems odd, but chaque a son gout. Me, I'd be thinking more in terms of, umm, maybe a kill team of half a dozen advanced fiendish invisible stalkers, led by a bone devil who's a rogue/fighter/assassin? Everyone is invisible, everyone can fly, the "hello" is a death strike attack and a wave of attacks from the stalkers. Or an attack led by mortals -- at Hell's instruction, a wealthy worshipper of Asmodeus bankrolls a strike force of a bunch of ambitious evil NPCs looking to curry favor with Hell, including a high level Diabolist and his squad of bound devils. Or bribes, blackmail and magic used against your associates, including your fellow PCs, to turn them against you -- would you trust all your fellow players not to turn on you if offered a vorpal sword? or the chance to rule a kingdom? Or, heck, a pit fiend just burns his annual Wish to wish you into Hell; you're just about to have breakfast when, bam, you're sitting in the dimension-locked dock of an infernal court and the trial for your offenses is about to begin.

-- To be perfectly clear, I'm fine with clever players abusing the rules. But when PCs start abusing /the game world/, then realistically the game world should respond. And that response may not be proportionate or level-appropriate. If your murderhobo PC kills a couple of city guards in Lawful Neutral Town, you can't really complain when a posse of Hellknights show up to take you down.

But, again, if you and your DM are both having fun, then pray carry on.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
.seth wrote:

yes, it has worked this way for several editions now. the wording of the spell is clearly broken and not working as intended, but that is exactly how it works as written.

I appreciate that this is a reasonable interpretation of the RAW. But is there an official ruling, errata, or FAQ?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Baval wrote:

getting appropriate corpses is not a problem at all, any creature you want can easily be obtained with planar binding into a room filled with explosive runes or other appropriate traps to insta kill what you summoned.

Higher HD creatures can be Gated in,

Has any DM anywhere ever actually allowed this?

I mean, sure it's RAW-legal. But it's also pretty much begging for massively disproportionate in-game retaliation. It's canon that most outsiders resent being called and bound. This goes way, way beyond that: it's J. Random Mortal Dude flat-up murdering outsiders so that he can get a few more hit dice of zombie slave. Any DM who cared about his game world would be totally justified in throwing a platoon of enraged angels or devils or whatever at the PC, heavily armed and utterly determined to crush the arrogant caster who's been murdering their pets or colleagues for his own convenience.

ISTM it would be a... very liberal... DM, who would allow a player to regularly use planar binding in this way.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Don't know if I'll ever finish this, but here are some notes towards a draft Guide.

Why play a Spell Sage?:

Not going to lie: there may not be any archetype that starts off as weak as the Spell Sage. At first level, you are just amazingly feeble. Your classmate, the specialist wizard with a bound object, can cast four spells before he has to rest. You can cast two. He also has some nifty specialist power, like spamming an Acid Dart or whatever. You don't. You don't have a familiar to spy on things, fight in a pinch, and grant you Alertness and some other bonus. And you've probably put all your points into Int (see below), so there's a good chance you're a weak, clumsy nerd.

However.

1) You are Old School. For some people, this is a feature, not a bug. Playing a low-level wizard with limited spells, no specialist powers and no familiar? That is Old School, my friends. That is about as close to a First Edition experience as you can get in this game. And while it's a challenge, it's not a pointless challenge, because

2) In the long run, you are amazing. The Spell Sage will eventually catch up and even surpass the other wizards. Roughly speaking, the Sage is painfully underpowered at levels 1-2 and still weak, but no longer grotesquely so, from levels 3-6. Then starting at level 7 or 8, he's roughly equal to other wizards... and then around level 13 or so, he starts to pull ahead. As we all know, the game gets somewhat Rocket Tag at high levels, so the ability to hit first and hit hard becomes steadily more important. Furthermore, the Sage gets access to ever more spells -- more spells than a Mystic Theurge, more spells any other class, archetype, or PrC. By the highest levels (17-20), the Spell Sage is firmly in the top tier: she's powerful, she's flexible, and she can do pretty much anything.

Putting (1) and (2) together means that:

(3) You are climbing the steepest possible power curve. If you play through a complete AP, you'll gradually progress from "pathetically feeble nerd" to "almost certainly the most powerful character in the party, wielding AWESOME ARCANE POWER with ALL THE SPELLS".

Okay, "low level challenge", "high level awesome", and "zero to hero, Xtreme version." Are there any other reasons to play this archetype? Yes, a couple, depending on what sort of player you are.

-- Play a Spell Sage if you love spells. This archetype gives you access to all those weird, super-specific edge-case spells that nobody ever uses. You want to give someone scurvy? There's a spell for that. Send a bunch of insects to crawl around inside the haunted house and see what's inside? There's a spell for that. Make a construct less likely to go berserk? Spell for that. Shipwrecked, need to build a sturdy raft from driftwood and detritus? Yup, spell for that. Want everyone to ignore you and your friends while you set up for a massive arcane ritual in the middle of the village square? "Aura of the Unremarkable", 3rd level bard. Want to create an oasis, with a freshwater spring in the middle? "Oasis", 5th level druid.

Of course, this only works if you, the player, are aware of these spells. So to get maximum benefit, you should be someone who grooves on spells, flips through splatbooks, and surfs the PFSRD. If that sounds like fun to you, play a Spell Sage. Contrariwise, if right now you're rolling your eyes, play something else entirely.

-- Play a Spell Sage if you enjoy the tension of strategically managing very limited assets. You know how, when you play a paladin, you spend a lot of time worrying about whether you should smite now, or later? This is like that only more so. You only get to overclock once/day until 8th level, and even then it's still just twice/day. You only get your spell replacement once/day until 7th level, and it eats two of your precious, precious slots. So you have to think really carefully about whether to push the button. Some people don't like that. Others think it's awesome. If you're in the second group, play a Spell Sage.

In metagame terms, consider playing a Spell Sage if:

-- You are playing an adventure with a lot of 15-minute adventuring days. The canonical example of this would be Kingmaker. I love the Kingmaker AP, but let's face it: in the first three modules more than half of the XP comes from one-shot encounters against a single creature or a small group. Again and again, once you're done with an encounter you can pitch camp, rest, heal, and study. The Spell Sage has a lot more breathing room, especially at lower levels, when the encounters are delivered in discrete chunks like this. Contrariwise, the Sage is weaker when facing long marathon resource-draining crawls without opportunities to study and rest.

-- You are playing an adventure where unusual and situational spells are useful. The Skull and Shackles AP, for example: there are lots and lots of spells dealing with sailing ships, adventuring on and under the sea, and so forth. Many of them could be pretty useful here. But are you really likely to take Unseen Crew or Track Ship or Conversing Wind as known spells when you level up? Hey presto, now it's not an issue.

-- Your party has no cleric, nor any good substitute. There's a huge difference between having limited access to clerical spells and having none. If your group consists of a fighter, a magus, a sorceror, and you, then they'll be looking to you for cures, the removal of blindness and curses, raising the dead, and all those other post-encounter back-office support services that a cleric normally provides.

Building a Spell Sage:

Stats -- A spell sage is even SADdy-er than an ordinary wizard. You need Int, Int, and more Int. Why? Because (1) you're starved for spell slots, so you need all the bonus spell slots you can get, and (2) nothing is more depressing than throwing your best overclocked blast and then watching the DM smirk as his creature makes it's save. Your precious overclocking power is half wasted if the target saves! So you want to crank those spell DCs as high as possible.

This means that point builds are going to be super lopsided.

15 point build: Str 8 Con 12 Dex 12 Int 17 Wis 10 Cha 10 <-- racial bonus on Int

20 point build: Str 8 Con 10 Dex 13 Int 18 Wis 10 Cha 10 <-- yeah, we went there. racial bonus on Int, so you start with Int 20.

About the only exception here is if you're going the Diabolist route (see below). In that case, you want at least a 12 Cha. That gives you some painful choices. Don't know what to tell you there except that the path of evil is not always an easy one.

Races -- With one exception, only races with Int bumps need apply. That's elves, humans, half-elves, half-orcs, tieflings, peri-blooded aasimars, ratfolk, sylphs, samsarans, androids and lashunta. Of those, the best are elf (dex bump, free spell penetration), human (free feat), ratfolk (dex bump, small size, stealth) and tieflings or aasimars with useful SLAs (because at low levels, you'll be starved for spells, so having a good SLA is nice).

And then there's the dhampir. The dhampir shouldn't be on this list, because they don't get an Int bump, their Cha bump isn't very useful to you, and the loss of Con hurts. But they're worth a second look because of their favored class bonus for wizards: +1/4 ECL for necromancy spells only. That stacks with your overclock, which means that by midlevels you can cast necromancy spells at +6 or +7 ECL. That's not game-breaking, but it opens up some interesting options -- raising a 20 HD giant zombie at 5th level, for instance, or throwing a 14d6 Boneshatter at 8th level, or possessing a Gargantuan object at 10th.

Skills -- Pick the usual mix of skills, but if you're starting at 1st level consider throwing a rank or two at skills that are useful to the party -- things like Heal and Appraise -- even if they're not class skills. (Everybody always ignores Heal, but it's actually pretty useful, especially at low levels with a healing kit.) Also, and I know this will sound weird, consider throwing an occasional rank at Stealth. Your Spell Study power takes time, so it happens between encounters. That means avoiding or evading encounters, yes? Against low-perception monsters, even a rank or two can help here. Otherwise, focus on the traditionals like UMD, Spellcraft and Knowledge Knowledge Knowledge.

A note on equipment -- You run out of spells fast, and you don't have school powers. So at low levels, your default is "cast two or three spells, then plink away with darts or a crossbow". That's not much fun, and also probably not all that helpful. So at low levels, invest in items that do stuff -- acid flasks, holy water, tanglefoot bags, thunderstones, etc. etc. Hey, it's an excuse to familiarize yourself with the ever-growing equipment list, and some of that stuff is actually pretty handy.

Speaking of which: go and read the PFSRD on alchemical reagents. There are a bunch of these, and several of them are a bit abusable. In particular, note the ones that increase damage from blasts (blackpowder and saltpeter) and the ones that increase ECL for one purpose or another (many, but not in particular urea, which can give you another die of damage on cold spells).

[discussion of feats and traits may eventually go here]

A note on the Spell Sage at the table:

If well played, this archetype has an almost unparalleled ability to ruin a DM's well-laid plans. That's because by midlevels, the Spell Sage can pull a spell out of the air for damn near every situation.

DM: You know the bandits are camping somewhere down along Trouble Creek, but you don't know exactly where. [The DM has a scenario set up where the PCs will move down the creek, running into some river-themed encounters, before coming up against a possible ambush by the bandits.]

SS: Okay, well then... I go down to the creek and cast Riversight.

DM: What?

SS: You know, Riversight? The druid spell? It lets me see up to ten miles down a river. I can see anything on, within, or up to 15 feet from the river as if I was right there.

DM: Oh right, Riversight. Um, well...

Many GMs will enjoy the challenge, but some may become cranky if their carefully crafted plans are repeatedly disrupted by an obscure (but RAW-legal) spell from some long-forgotten splatbook. So -- discuss this with your DM in advance, and make sure he's cool with it.

(Also, if you're playing from first level, you may want to briefly explain to the other players that you're playing a slow-burn character that's really weak at low levels. You don't really want frustrated fellow players asking you why your wizard is so darn useless. Note that a few levels down the line, it will pay off for everyone, and thank them for their support and understanding until then.)

Comments very welcome!

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Undeath Ward: you cast this before entering the Undead-Themed Dungeon. Two 5th level spell slots is a lot, but "no undead can touch you" is pretty powerful. Sadly, it doesn't protect against spells and SLAs, but OTOH you can use it tactically -- your melee brute can stand just inside and hack at the enemy, and they won't be able to hit back.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Animate Dead has limits on how many HD you can *animate* with one single casting of the spell, and then how many HD you can *control*. These are set forth as follows:

Quote:

Regardless of the type of undead you create with this spell, you can't create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead. The desecrate spell doubles this limit.

The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. You choose which creatures are released.

As a practical matter, most animators are going to be much more interested in the second number (control) than in the first (animate). The first number will only be an issue rarely and situationally, like if you're 6th level and you stumble across the corpse of a 14 HD frost giant. The second number puts a hard upper limit on your power.

1) How does this interact with the dhampir favored class bonus for wizard? "Add +1/4 to the wizard's caster level when casting spells of the necromancy school." So, an 8th level dhampir wizard would cast necromancy spells like a 10th level wizard. (a) Does this mean he could animate 20 HD at a time, instead of just 16? (b) Does this mean he could control 40 HD of undead, instead of just 32? -- My take is that while it's not clearly written, it should apply to both. After all, the dhampir is always being treated as if she's higher level. I suppose the counterargument would be that the language "when casting" means you're only considered higher level _at the moment of casting_, not when you're just bossing your zombies around. But that seems kind of tortured.

2) The Spell Sage has the ability to occasionally boost the caster level of his spells. Same question as above: how does this affect (a) number he can animate at a time, and (b) total number he can control? -- My take: should certainly apply to animation, less sure about total control.

3) There are a number of items that boost your ECL when casting spells with the [evil] descriptor -- the Orb of Foul Abaddon, etc. Again -- does this boost your animate number, your animate and control numbers, or neither?

4) And finally, there's the Undead Master feat: "When you cast animate dead or use the Command Undead feat, you are considered to be four levels higher when determining the number of Hit Dice you animate." Well, it says "animate", not "control". So reading it as written, it appears to apply only to (a) the HD you can animate, not (b) the HD you can control. This makes it a pretty crap feat, one that no PC or sane NPC would ever waste a feat slot on. But that's neither here nor there... there are hundreds of crap feats. Really just including this to see if it was ever errata'd.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:


When you're advocating war solely for love of conflict, without regard to whom it hurts, you've placed yourself solidly in the banner of Team Evil.

Don't see where I said that. He loves war, but that doesn't mean he'd start a war (or any other conflict) for *no* reason. There are surgeons who enjoy cutting people open. Does that make them evil?

-- But anyway: for game purposes, the final question is what the OP's DM thinks.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Quote:


What you're describing is an evil character as he clearly does not care about the pain and suffering that is inflicted as collateral damage.

Arguing alignment is a mug's game... but he'd say that the pain and suffering is inevitable and necessary. That's just the way the universe is wired. Does a revolution overthrow an evil tyrant? That's great, but someone's gonna die. Does a peaceful kingdom wage a successful defensive war to fend off a marauding barbarian horde? Good for them, but someone's gonna die. Does the village need defending from the orcs? Sure, he'll defend the village... for a price. And now a bunch of orcs are gonna die. And that's just fine.

Birth is an event full of blood and pain; is birth evil? A surgeon cuts you open with a knife; is the surgeon evil? A panther tears a deer's throat out; is the panther evil? Pain and suffering are an unavoidable part of life. And in the end, everything dies anyway.

Maybe not good company at a tea party. But not, in the D&D system, necessarily evil.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

That's certainly one option. Like Colonel Kurtz: "He just wanted the pain to stop. He just wanted to go out... like a soldier."

Of course, an issue here is that it doesn't leave a lot of room for growth or change. He's pretty much fixed as a character (at least as long as he's worshipping Szuriel, anyway). But this may not be a problem -- not every PC needs a character arc. (Honestly, the majority of them do just fine without, really.)

An alternate option: dude LOVES war and conflict, and just thinks Szuriel is the only deity that's honest about the whole thing. "War makes men into heroes! Cities into empires! Inspires legends that live forever! Yes, the cost is horrible! But that's the way the world is! Turning loose the Horseman is the only way anything ever gets done!" -- This version of the character is willing to take his chances after death; maybe he'll get eaten, maybe he'll get turned into some b~$~&in' daemon that eats everyone else. He's okay with it either way. This guy is a brutal nihilist, but not actually evil -- he's not cruel and has no interest in unnecessary violence. No need! There's already more than enough necessary violence to go around...

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

-- Oh gosh, the contingency spell.

Normally you can only place a contingency spell that's a wizard spell, and the limit is level/3, rounded down. But the Spell Sage? On his first day off after hitting 11th level, he casts Contingency at 15th level followed by Breath of Life. Boom -- any time he's killed, a round later he recovers 5d8+15 hit points and bounces back to life. He's still vulnerable to death effects and truly massive damage, and there are situations (swallowed whole by a purple worm, dropped into a lava pit) where this may not save him. Still: a nice little insurance policy.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Balancer wrote:
You have to cast the spell as you cast contingency right? Does the extended casting time affect that?

No.

From the Contingency spell: "The 10-minute casting time is the minimum total for both castings; if the companion spell has a casting time longer than 10 minutes, use that instead." Breath of Life has a normal casting time of one standard. Casting it as a Spell Sage, it would take you six rounds. That's less than 10 minutes, so the total casting time is 10 minutes.

Doug M.


3 people marked this as FAQ candidate.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So, the Spell Sage wizard archetype:

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

The questions, then:

1) What happens if a Spell Sage uses this ability to craft a magic item? -- Based on a reasonable reading of the rules, it looks like he could do this. Both the rules and designer statements support a reading that it doesn't matter where the spell came from, as long as it's cast during the crafting.

2) What happens if he uses it to scribe a scroll? -- This is a more challenging question. There was a long thread on this forum a couple of years ago. It reviewed the arguments pretty well (go on, check it out), but didn't reach a firm conclusion. AFAIK, no Paizo staffer ever responded, so no official ruling has ever been made. There appeared to be three positions: (a) he can do this freely; (b) he can scribe scrolls of cleric, druid or bard spells, but then must make a UMD check to use them; or (c) he simply cannot scribe scrolls of these spells.

3) What happens if a Spell Sage tries to write such a spell into his spellbook? -- Note that the Spell Sage gets "back door" access to most of the wizard's spell list, because so many spells are both wizard and cleric, bard, or druid spells. Personally, I think that since he's casting them *as* cleric, etc. spells, he couldn't write them in his spell book -- or rather, he could, but it would be a waste of expensive ink and pages, as he could never take them as prepared spells. But a clear ruling on this would be nice.

-- I note that in terms of game balance, the Spell Sage is somewhat underpowered, especially at lower levels. He has a couple of really cool abilities, but he only gets them once or twice a day, and he sacrifices two of the wizard's best class features. No Arcane Bond *and* no Arcane School: ouch. So, even the most liberal answers aren't going to turn this into an OP archetype that everyone is rushing to play. I realize that doesn't make a difference in terms of RAW/RAI; just putting it out there.

Since this question has come up at least twice already without ever getting an official ruling, I'm FAQing it. Meanwhile, thoughts and comments welcome.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ralph Cauthorn wrote:

My Spell Sage just hit level 11.

What I want to do is this:
1. Cast contingency, using my focused spells class ability to cast it at caster level 15 so I can get a contingent 5th level spell.
2. Use Spell Study to cast breath of life together with the contingency.
3. Set the trigger condition as my own death.

Is there anything I have misread that prevents me from achieving a contingent breath of life if I die in this way?

I'm writing a guide to the Spell Sage, and this trick is going into it.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Dhampir FCB: that's an interesting one. On one hand, the Dhampir isn't a great race for a Spell Sage -- you want a boost to Int, not Cha, and the -2 Con is painful. But OTOH, being able to crank your ECL up over the moon is pretty sweet, even if it does just apply to necromancy. And there are a number of necromancy spells that benefit from increased ECL: Boneshaker, Boneshatter, Blight, Ray of Enfeeblement, Defending Bone, Vampiric Touch, Vampiric Shadow Shield, Animate Dead. -- Oh, gosh, Animate Dead is 4th level for most wizards, but since it's a 3rd level clerical spell a Spell Sage can access it at 5th level! And at, let's say, 8th level a plain vanilla wizard could have 16 HD of zombies following him around. The Spell Sage would have 24 HD, or 28 if a dhampir. That's two dead frost giants.

-- Of course, you can gain the same effect by casting Deathwine... a spell that, let's note, you can access at 3rd level, because it's just 2nd level for clerics. By midlevels a scroll of this spell, along with a Cure Serious Wounds potion, should be a permanent part of your equipment.

-- Huh: Create Undead goes from a stupid spell that exists to explain why the evil temple is guarded by ghouls to a spell that suddenly sparkles with the potential for abuse! An 11th level Spell Sage with a Cure Serious Wounds potion can cast like she's 17th level, creating CR 6 to 8 creatures like mummies, dullahans, crypt things, phantom lancers and mohrgs. Okay, on one hand, they're not automatically under your control. But on the other, they cost almost nothing and hang around forever.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
QuidEst wrote:

Possess Object- get a gargantuan object at twelfth. Stack with the Dhampir alternate FCB to boost Necromancy CL and get it at tenth.

Expect thrown books.

Oh yeah, that's a good one. It's slightly nerfed by the fact that a Gargantuan object probably can't go down a dungeon. But you can have a 12' tall suit of armor or something built for special occasions. At 12th level and up, an Extended version of this spell will last 24 hours, so you can clank around like a mecha all day long.

(Actually, now that I think about it, you could probably put your comatose body inside the armor. As safe as anywhere, and if you need to swap back, why, the armor just goes "dead" for a round. Then you climb out the hatch in the back and start blasting.)

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
SodiumTelluride wrote:
You may want to add a caveat that at level 1, a spell sage wizard is strictly worse than every other wizard-- no extra school slot, no school abilities, and nothing to show for it (aside from Focused Spells, for which he gave up his arcane bond).

No question, at Levels 1 and 2 the Spell Sage is weak weak weak. This is especially true if you have a point build and throw everything at Int -- which you should, because you need the extra spell slot and the +1 DC. You don't start to catch up until 3rd level and you're still relatively underpowered until 7th or so.

Mind, for some people this might be a feature rather than a bug. Do you like Old School Gaming? Do you miss First Edition, when your wizard started with 3 hit points and could cast exactly one spell per day? Do you want to play a hardscrabble game where your low-level character must carefully make the best of his very limited resources?

Quote:
This drawback reveals itself again at level 8, when he also doesn't get his second school ability.

Eh, it depends. Some of the 8th level school abilities are bloody amazing, but OTOH many of them are junk.

Quote:
I've never played one, but it seems to me that a spell sage's "sweet spots" of competence are around levels 5-7 and beyond 13 or so, when his lack of a specialty school is the least glaring.

Here I would disagree. I think the Spell Sage is very weak at levels 1-2, still pretty weak at 3-6, then catches up fast. At 8th level you're getting both your specials twice/day, which really makes a huge difference. By 9th you have enough spell slots and other resources that you're really caught up with the other wizards. By 13th I would say that you're pulling ahead -- the game is now moving into Rocket Tag territory, where the ability to hit first and hit hard is becoming ever more important. The Spell Sage's ability to overclock, combined with his access to all the weird situational spells, make him a very attractive choice at high levels. In fact, I'd say that by 20th level the Spell Sage would be absolutely terrifying. At that point he'd probably win a fair fight with almost any other wizard school or archetype. (Excepting the specialist Diviner, of course. It's pretty hard to beat "automatically always win initiative -- Time Stop!")

Thinking about it, the Spell Sage really is the most Old School sort of wizard you can play. He's likely to be a weak, clumsy nerd who has thrown everything else overboard to gain the biggest brain possible. And he starts off really feeble, and at low levels he struggles simply to survive. But he climbs the steepest possible power curve, eventually ascending to AWESOME ARCANE POWER with ALL THE SPELLS.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
MageHunter wrote:
Black tentacles is fine, but I really prefer Hungry Earth. It's a little messed up... But definitely a show-stopper. Suffocation or Greater Suffocation for the same reason.

These two are good picks, because they're not obvious blasty dice/level spells.

Others? More? Spells where the ECL bump helps in ways that are more sophisticated than "more dice on the fireball"?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Plausible Pseudonym wrote:
The problem is that most 3/4 BAB characters have a class ability to improve their to-hit (Bard's can Inspire themselves, Hunters can flank with their animal, Warpriests have lots of options, Occultists/Magi enhance their weapons, etc.), but the Mesmerist doesn't.

To be fair, the Mesmerist does have (1) cheap Improved Feint, and (2) a bunch of defensive tricks that increase his average survival time in melee. Feinting improves to-hit against targets with Dex bonuses, which is probably 50% of them at low levels rising to 80% by the time you're past 10th. -- That said, I agree with this:

Quote:
The stare gives you more damage, but the -2 (-3) to will saves is there, too to enhance your spells over what any 6 level caster can do. So you're worse at hitting with weapons, but better at hitting with spells than any other 3/4 BAB 6/9 caster. Exploit that. Your stare damage and stare debuff feats will apply if others hit the target, let those who are better at it than you do it.

Yes. The Mesmerist is obviously built to have the option of being a backup melee combatatnt if necessary. But I think an elaborate build designed to make him a melee monster is somewhat missing the point. If you want to go that route, there are dozens of AM BARBARIAN and superfighter builds. The Mesmerist has other strengths. Or so ISTM.

Doug M.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

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

Quote:

Focused Spells (Su)

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

This ability replaces arcane bond.

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

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

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

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

Quote:

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

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

This ability replaces arcane school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Some players absolutely love backstory and don't want to live without it. Some don't care. And then there's a big middle group that likes it okay but is perfectly content to try a campaign that starts without it.

As with so many things in this game, it's ultimately a judgment call on the part of the GM.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:
^FOUR feats to get three levels back? That sounds like a really expensive trade, and it's 80% of a VMC in feat cost.

VMC? -- But anyway: if the first feat does something for you and isn't just a feat tax, then maybe.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Spastic Puma wrote:
Almost finished running this. I'll drop a recap later for anyone who's interested. This book was incredible :)

Color me interested. Looking forward!

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
CBDunkerson wrote:
When your physical copy of the book ships they charge your account and add the PDFs to your downloads... so yes, people get access to the PDFs at different times depending on the shipping order. When you get the e-mail telling you that the book has shipped you should then be able to find the PDF.

Ah ha. Okay, good to know. Thanks!

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:
If you do go all the way through Blackfire Adept, you get a chance to penetrate not only anti-teleportation effects with your summoning/calling, but also Anti-Magic Fields, Prismatic Wall/Sphere, extradimensional shelters...

This is pretty rad, but in most campaigns it really won't be an issue. I mean, how many Anti-Magic Fields does one typically encounter? Incredibly cool when it happens, but there's no way this can justify losing three levels of casting.

Mind, it /does/ provide an in-game rationale for Anti-Magic Fields and whatnot being not quite invulnerable: sure, you can set something like this up, but there just might be a Blackfire Adept out there who can crack into it.

Quote:
Blackfire Eruption also disintegrates anything that it reduces below 0 hit points, which means that they're not coming back without Miracle, True Resurrection, or Wish.

Well, Disintegrate does that too. As do low-tech methods like burning the body, cutting the thing's head off and taking it away, etc. What makes Blackfire Eruption mildly interesting (IMO) is that it ignores hardness. This would be awesome, except that the damage against nongood creatures (and, presumably, objects) is frustratingly feeble -- d8/2 levels, halved. That means that at 12th level you'll do an underwhelming 14 points of damage on average. So, nice if you encounter an adamantite door with Hardness 40, but otherwise not really a thing. Basically this is your go-to mid-level spell for zapping good-aligned enemies, especially good outsiders. It's decent for that -- not great (it still allows SR) but decent. But overall, nothing to get excited about.

Quote:
Magical Knack for a trait (worth getting it with Additional Traits if you need other traits first) -- at least this reduces the total caster level delay to 1 level.

[thumps head] Duhhh, OF COURSE anyone who takes this PrC should take Magical Knack. You still lose a level of spells, but at least your ECL isn't trashed. Very good catch!

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Heine Stick wrote:
MMCJawa wrote:
So uh...did anyone else's volume show up in their downloads under "Taldor, inc", and not in the Strange Aeons AP section of their downloads?
Yup.

As of 1:00 AM EST Friday 2 December, mine hasn't appeared at all. Should it download to everyone at the same time, or do some get their downloads before others?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dastis wrote:
Think I would just try to early entry Diabolist for 3 levels, go back to wizard for 1 level to grab 5th level spells, then go into Blackfire Adept.

The Diabolist doesn't drop any caster levels, so there'd be no reason to dip back into Wizard. Also, if you start Diabolist at level 6? You want to blast straight through to Diabolist 5 as fast as possible, because you want to grab Hellish Soul before somthing perma-kills you.

But anyway: the advantage of your strategy is that you avoid the four underpowered levels 6 through 9. Also, you can start casting Lesser Planar Binding at Level 9 instead of 10. That's pretty good! The disadvantages are smaller but multiple. (1) Entering Diabolist at 6th level, while possible by using a scroll, is hard -- you have a significant chance of failing and wasting a pile of money; (2) you're underpowered at levels 10 and 11 instead, and (3) you're waiting until 12th level before you can get those extra two dice on your bindings. Of course, you can just take Augment Calling at 9th level, which partiall compensates. Finally (4) in this build you're waiting a long, long time -- seven levels -- until you can get Hellish Soul and no longer have to worry about permanently dying. So overall I think your build is definitely a strong alternative, but it does come with some drawbacks.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
the Diviner wrote:
But with the belt that fatigue will just turn into 1d6 nonlethal damage because of the belt.

Sure, there are several different ways around the fatigue imposed by that feat. A Wand of Lesser Restoration is probably the cheapest, though it does require a UMD roll and a standard action. But then, when you're a Diabolist, you just have your imp companion invest some ranks in UMD, and then fly around with a "golf bag" of low-level but useful wands.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

One last thought on the Blackfire Adept as a player character class: one of the least bad ways to go is be a Lawful Evil wizard. Take five levels of wizard, then three levels of BA, then go Diabolist. One you hit 10th level you'll be able to use Lesser Planar Binding to call devils with up to 8 HD. You'll get +1 on the Will save to catch them and +3 on the contested Charisma check to bind them (+1 from BA and +2 from Diabolist). Then when you turn them loose, your devils will have an additiona +10 hp and +1 profane bonus on saves. That's not too bad. At 11th level add Augment Calling and you can really turn up the heat, calling devils of up to 10 HD.

If you decide to go this route, build with Cha at least 12, go to 14 if you can manage it. Then make sure you take the following feats:

Spell Focus: Conjuration
Augment Summoning
Superior Summons
Augment Calling

Optional but recommended: Evolved Summons, because it gives you unparalleled flexibility -- you can call up a creature with gills in water, add 5 resistance to some energy type, increase its damage output, or simply give it +2 to AC.

Optional: Summon Evil Monster. Gives you several more creatures you can get the benefit of Sacred Summons from.

This is a slow-burn build: you're underpowered for four whole levels, six through nine. But starting at 10th level you should be both competitive and flavorful. Exactly how competitive depends on how your DM handles the Planar Binding spells, but under RAW you should be quite strong. And at 16th level, woo, you can call and bind a Pit Fiend. Did they laugh at you back at the Academy. Well now you'll show them. You'll show them ALL AH HA HA HAAAA.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Bump. I think there's only the one half-completed guide, plus the MiniGuide to Bold Stares. But surely other people have builds?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, the second module left me a bit flat, but the third one really made me sit up and take notice. Fingers crossed.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
the Diviner wrote:


You do know that Sacred Summons only allows you to summon creatures quicker whose subtype matches your aura right? And not creatures whose alignment matches your aura?

(Say your aura is CE you can summon Demons and other creatures with Chaotic and Evil in their subtype description. Like this:
CE Medium outsider (chaotic, demon, evil, extraplanar))

"to summon creatures whose alignment subtype or subtypes exactly
match your aura" - UM p. 155.

Pretty sure you know this. Just making sure there is no confusion on this subject.

No, I was actually thinking alignment not subtype. -- Okay, that moves this feat from being finicky to being almost completely crap. There are only a handful of creatures on the Summon lists that have any alignment subtypes at all. If you're CE or LE, you can summon demons and devils, which there's an average of about one per level, with more of them at higher levels. If you're CE or LE and 9th level or higher, you'll be able to use this feat intermittently -- but you're trading away the flexibility of using Summon Monster to bring in different creatures, which is one of the spell's main appeals. You're Chaotic Evil and you want to use this feat on Summon Monster V? You get a babau, because that's your only option.

And if you're anything else but LE or CE, you're SOL, because all the other alignments are even worse. Neutral Good? Three creatures, two agathions and an angel. Chaotic Good? You get exactly one -- the Lillend Azata. Chaotic Neutral? Hope you like that Chaos Beast, because it's the only thing on the list for you. Lawful Neutral? Gosh, whoops -- there isn't a single LN creature on the list.

So Sacred Summons is actually a very limited feat to begin with -- it's pretty close to worthless unless you're LE or CE. (I suppose you could make a case for LG, because Lantern Archons are so great, but only from levels 5-10 or so.) Yet for some reason the designers decided to make it a major class feature of the unfortunate Blackfire Adept. Oh dear, oh dear.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Already billed for this, but the .pdf hasn't appeared yet. How long does that usually take?

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh, and this is also THE MINIGUIDE TO THE DARKFIRE ADEPT

for for people who use the pfsrd.

Doug M.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blackfire 3.

Quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, that's a thing that 5e got right -- Lair and Legendary actions really make a difference in action economy for bosses.

It's especially an issue in PBP, where teams of six are much more common.

Doug M.


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

Ahh, then you probably want this thread right here.

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

cheers,

Doug M.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The Augment Calling feat gives you another 2 HD.

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

DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, Part 1

DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, Part 2

Things You Can Call With Greater Planar Binding, and Why

DMDM's MiniGuide to the Gate Spell

cheers,

Doug M.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have one so far: one of the smiling doppelgangers will say "Down here we all float...". Any other suggestions?

Doug M.

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