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You're not wrong! Nice catch. It's not a huge bonus, but every little bit helps. You'd want a somewhat MADdy character -- wisdom for a cleric, charisma for diabolism, and some intelligence to get enough skill ranks to make that bonus more than occasionally useful.
I built a blaster around urea a while back! [rummage rummage] Yup, http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2rn1d?Blaster-wizard-with-alchemical-reagents#1 here it is[/url].
Spirit of Wine (3gp) gives +1 caster level to summoning and calling spells. An extra day of service for a planar ally or planar binding for 3gp is a great deal, and as a side benefit, it can help out at those low levels when Summon Monster duration matters.
Both of those functions are great -- the summoning at levels 1-4 or so, and the calling for later on. I must remember to add that to my Guide to Planar Binding. Thanks!
Well, I can't really say that's "equivalent". I mean, it's nice. But it's two books. The PFSRD is 60+ books plus all rules, feats, NPCs and monsters from every module and AP, all lavishly hyperlinked to each other, and the whole thing regularly updated by a devoted fanbase. This is not really in the same class.
I've been running PF for years, both online and FTF, and these forums have been an invaluable resource. But now I'm running a 5e campaign, and... there doesn't seem to be anything comparable. There's ENWorld, and there are the Giant In The Playground forums, and... um, that's it? Apparently WotC used to have forums, but they closed last week?
(Also: damn is WotC's Dungeons and Dragons page awful. It's garish and it's hard to navigate. Not trying to slag anyone; just sayin'.)
Anyway. If I want to find a good online forum where I can do the sorts of things a DM wants to do -- scavenge for ideas, brainstorm, come up with cool tricks to spring on my players -- where would I go?
many thanks in advance,
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!
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?
She's the final baddie of the whole module. I'm okay with her being borderline OP. I note that if the PCs are stealthy or clever, they may be able to avoid facing her with her allies. If she's alone, action economy will quickly give the win to a group of 4 or more PCs.
She has a pile of hp and decent AC, but if you have a heavy damage dealer -- a barbarian or a smiting paladin -- you can whittle her down pretty fast. So, for instance, a not-very-optimized 3rd level barbarian raging with Power Attack is going to hit her more than half the time for around d12+10 damage, and that's before anyone has thrown a single buff on him or even set up a flank. Throw in a flanking rogue, a healbot, and a wizard who still has a couple of utility spells left in his spell slots, and her chances do not look good. This is exactly why the module gives her allies -- if the PCs can concentrate their attacks on her, she's likely to go down fast.
Note that her saves are pretty crap. Reflex +2 means a simple Grease spell has a better-than-even chance of knocking her down. Will +4 means you can try a range of enchantments, illusions and other save-or-sucks -- Color Spray, Glitterdust, Blindness -- with a good chance of success.
To me she seems just about right: challenging and scary, but very killable if the players are clever.
One problem: it's canon that Inevitables can't be forced to do anything that's against their nature. Not even when called and bound; if you try, they just shut down. So while it's fairly easy to call, you can't really use it for anything but tracking down lawbreakers.
Seriously, this is about the best thing that can happen on these forums AFAIC. You put an idea out there, and someone picks it up -- and bends it and plays with it and makes it better, and then has fun with it. This just makes me really happy.
-- Did you use the "Lyrie is attracted to one PC / dislikes and is obnoxious to another" thing?
Also, don't be afraid to play the pity card. Lyrie's lower lip trembles... "I, I just want to live! I just want to... go home!" Depending on what sort of campaign you're running, she might even be sincere.
Let us know how it wraps!
Also, if you're thinking of calling (as opposed to summoning) monsters? Search on this forum for "DMDM Planar Binding" and you'll find various pieces of DMDM's Guide to Planar Binding, a work that started as a simple post and is now over 10,000 words long, complete with discussion of about 100 different creatures you might conceivably call.
If you use any of this stuff, please do tell us how it works out!
Holy socks, I completely missed the Glory domain! As a cleric, you can use it on yourself; as an arcane caster, it's a great reason to have a clerical cohort or hireling. Nice!
Well, about 80% of the Guide works for calling builds of any sort. A lot of things will be the same regardless: the emphasis on winning Cha checks, the quest for True Names, the need to deal with SR, and the challenges of action economy and table management.
One of these days I'll get the Guide to Planar Binding up (you can find it in pieces on these boards) and then anyone who wants to build a caller will have all the necessary information in two handy reference works.
No, you're not wrong. It's been pointed out already by PM. (Though, oddly, nobody seemed to notice it in the earlier edition.) It's only in the spell list, so doesn't affect the Guide otherwise. Still, an embarrassing error; good to get that fixed.
A circlet of persuasion takes up your head slot, not the headband slot. Common sense misleads you here.
It does indeed. Good catch!
Also note the stone of good luck/luckstone for another +1 to cha checks, among other things.
This falls into the category of items that are "good for anyone, particularly good for diabolists and planar binders". There aren't a lot of classes that make ability score checks on a regular basis.
Always an interesting read.
Played my Diabolist (non-optimal Oracle build) up through the Eyes of the Ten "Seeker" arc in PFS earlier this year, and had a blast doing it. Would be leveling another (Infernal Binder Wizard build), but recently moved (back) to an area with substantially less PFS activity.
If I can ever find a suitable home game, with a permitting GM, I'd love to build a fully LE one, so that I can start tinkering with damnation feats and true names.
I'm always interested to hear about actual experiences with this PrC.
Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the Occult classes, particularly Occultist and Psychic, as potential base classes for a Diabolist build?
Haven't even started on the Occult classes. I mean, literally haven't looked at them yet. Would be interested in any thoughts that anyone has on them.
Shaman with the Lore wandering spirit. They have higher charisma than wizzies, have access to the entire wizard spell list without the need for a costly spell book, and have access to useful buff spells that wizards don't.
As you can see, I haven't included any of the new classes beyond the Arcanist. But okay, I should probably give the shaman another look. Watch for it in the Spring 2016 Guide -- and if you want to do a preliminary writeup, feel free!
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.
(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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Going to post this in chunks, since it's very long. Comments are of course extremely welcome.
Another plot seed: one of the Keepers wants to die for good. The other Keeper is saddened, but willing to accept it... as long as a replacement is found. As it happens, one of the PCs is a druid! Obviously the PC will immediately realize what a huge honor this is, and s/he will jump at the chance...
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...
Meanwhile, some more general thoughts:
-- Blasts are the most obvious application of Focused Spell: hey, three Magic Missiles at first level! Snapdragon Fireworks, you can keep throwing d4 damage + dazzle for five rounds! But at lower levels, there are a lot of rounds per level nonblast spells that Focused Spell really helps with. For instance, level 1 Mage Armor is one miserable hour; you can boost it to five hours. Level 1 Summon Monster is just one round, but you can keep a summoned creature around for five rounds. This is actually a potentially big deal at lower levels. I'm sure there are many other examples of this.
-- Spell Study is a power that rewards careful examination of the spell lists, and I think we might need a separate thread for it. For example, there are a bunch of spells that are Level X for a wizard, but are one level lower for another caster class. Scrying, to name one, is a 4th level wizard spell, is a 3rd level bard spell. Okay, it takes three rounds longer to cast -- no big deal, it's an hour of casting time anyway. And it costs two third level spell slots; again no big deal, you're usually casting it at home on an off day anyway. That's before we get into heals and buffs and talking to animals and whatnot.
-- +4 ECL counts for spell penetration against things with SR. Play an elf (and an elf is a good choice for a Spell Sage) and you can usually count one getting at least one solid shot past an enemy's SR.
-- At the highest levels, +4 ECL when casting Gate is a huge deal; if you have the cash, you'll be able to snag pit fiends and solars without breaking a sweat.
Robb Smith wrote:
I don't think they've expressed a position publicly, but a number of guides do contain discussion of setting-specific material -- i.e., "this works particularly great if you're a mystery cultist of Desna", etc.
I would agree that it's a good idea to highlight 3PP content, because a lot of people are fussy about that -- some because 3PP can't be used in organized play, others because they just want a bright line around what's canon and what isn't.
Okay, some general thoughts on the Spell Sage.
1) Fewer spells/day means this archetype does better in APs and campaigns that have a lot of short encounters with rests between. Kingmaker, for instance -- the Spell Sage would really shine here. Contrariwise, a Spell Sage is more likely to run into problems when there are a lot of long grindy stretches.
2) Boost your Int, boost your Int, boost your Int. True for every wizard but especially for this guy. Int gives you bonus spells, and the Sage needs every spell slot he can get. You don't get school spells, so right there you're down one spell at each level, and then you'll want to burn spell slots sometimes for Spell Study. Int and more Int.
3) Uwotm doesn't recommend Pearls of Power but I have to disagree a bit. From 2nd level onwards, you want to preserve as many spell slots as possible for using Spell Study. At low levels, Pearls are a cheap and easy way to do this. Later on they get a bit expensive, yes, but from 2nd to around 8th level they're really handy.
Okay, some mechanics. Let's say you're building a blaster. Take Spell Specialization (Burning Hands). Boom, 3d4 damage at 1st level, or once/day you can use Focused Spell to surge that to 5d4. That'll wipe out pretty much any nonboss opponent and also sweep the street clean of lower level mooks. Okay, that's good but not amazing. But at 3rd level, take Intensified Spell (allows five more levels of damage on spells, +1 spell slot) as your third level feat. Now your Burning Hands will do 5d4 normally, but you can throw a second level BH that surges to 9d4. Again, that'll kill or severely damage most nonbosses at this level. At 6th level, switch Spell Specialization to Fireball, and boom -- 8d6 fireballs, surging to 10d6. One more level and you can put an Intensified Fireball in a 4th level slot for 13d6 of damage; at 8th level that'll be 14d6, and you'll be able to do it twice per day. None of this is insanely great or game-breaking (it's once/day, there are a lot of things with fire resistance, you can't swap energy types like the evoker blaster) but it's pretty solid. This guy won't be as good a blaster as the classic Evoker with Admixture, but he'll be respectable and will have a lot of flexibility to make up for it.
More in a bit --
Ohh, right you are. -- Well, what the heck was the point of giving the beast Combat Reflexes, then? All I can think is that it can Dim Door into a group of weaker combatants or casters, attack, and then get AoOs on anyone who tries to run. But that's very situational, and not the best way to burn a feat slot. Also, what's with that slime? Woo, it can cough up tanglefoot bags. The range increment is 20', it needs a hit roll and the target gets a save. Not really an impressive ability for a CR 12 creature.
Yeah, okay -- overall the Omox is rather badly designed, and so somewhat underpowered for its CR. Still situationally good, in a flooded or underwater lair, or teamed up with some other monster. But it's not on anyone's short list.
Mith'aj the Tactful wrote:
I would agree that it's a bit of a specialized tool -- good for water encounters, otherwise not so much. Despite its 18 HD, it's much more of a battlefield control creature than a melee brute.
Labyrinth Minotaur [CR 14, Will +17, SR none, Cha 14] -- Higher will save (26 WIS), but no SR/low CHA melee powerhouse. Charge, trample, multiple bull rush for all in reach.
Chaotic evil, but not a demon, so anti-demon stuff does nothing. Okay Will for a creature of its CR, but no SR and crap Cha = one of the easier CR 14 creatures to call and bind. You could totally have a couple of these bad boys stomping around your lair as bodyguards. Of course, they're not much good as anything but melee brutes, and also in Golarion it's canon that they're the special of one particular demon lord who might get cranky if someone else starts playing with his toys. But if you need a big loud monster to smash things, this is a fine choice.
You're very welcome. It's a work in progress -- if you want the latest version, PM me your e-mail addy and I'll send it along. Also, comments are very welcome.
Omox [CR 12, Will +12, SR 23, Cha 18] This creature makes me sad, because it is very close to being good. Well... decent, - for its CR at least. The only thing this creature needs to be worth having on the battlemap is a size-increase(and reach). Alas, it's a medium-sized creature with no exceptional reach, and as such, it falls short. This outsider has two things going for it, and that is its grab ability into smother, and a load of immunities. However, since grab has a size-limitation, and this creature does not come packed with any grapple-feats, the usefulness of the smother ability becomes unreliable. If your lair is flooded, these guys could be decent sentries. Other than that, your efforts are better spent calling something else.
Look closer. The omox has Create Water at will and Control Water 3x/day. That means that given a few rounds advance notice, it can flood any reasonably sized confined space on its own. Once enemies show up, Dim Door as a free action -> grapple with smother. It's not amazing against like-levelled monsters or melee types, but against casters? Grappled + unable to breathe or speak is bad news indeed. As to the size issue, hey, there's no reason you can't just cast Enlarge on it.
Unholy Nimbus is great. I think the nalfeshnee is a very solid all-rounder. Its reflex save is a bit of a glass jaw but SR, flight and immunities make that less of an issue than for other creatures.
We missed the Elysian Titan (21 HD), Thanatotic Titan (23 HD), and Hekatonkheires (24 HD). Beyond that there's the Yamaraj Psychopomp (25 HD)... and that seems to be it; anything with more HD is either a unique creature or 3PP.
Am I missing anything, or is the Yamaraj really the top of the line?
Let's note that at this level, we're overlapping with creatures that can be called with Gate. So that's a thing.
Brijidine Azata [CR 17, Will +21, SR 28, Cha 23] This one is sort of meh at combat. It has an entrap option that's sort of a trap option. It has a useful list of spell-like abilities, at least, but nothing that strikes me as spectacular. You probably shouldn’t take Augment Calling (azata).
I would agree. Also, the Brigidine is a fire-based creature, which is actually not a great thing at this level -- too many spells and items that shut down or target fire.
Purrodaemon [CR 18, Will +14, SR 29, Cha 21] Moderately useful for basic combat, a couple of okay damaging spell-like abilities, but nothing really special.
I would agree. It's a fairly vanilla creature. You might call or gate it if you're a good fit in terms of alignment or are on good terms with the daemon lords, and you want to kill an army, or otherwise want a very straightforward combat brute. Otherwise, if you're going to call a 19 HD evil horror, you're likely better off with the next guy:
Yeah, the thulgant is really solid. True, it's insanely evil and chaotic, and extra-hard to bind. But man, you'll rip through some enemies. The purrodaemon comes out well ahead in terms of raw damage, but the thulgant's bewildering array of abilities and SLAs make it a better all-rounder. And if you're dealing with demons, woo, this guy is going to be so much fun.
Yes, you totally do. And if you're a good match in terms of alignment and goals, hey, he's got Miracle on tap.
Vrolikai Demon [CR 19, Will +17, SR 30, Cha 26] Another spectacular one. These things hand out negative levels like they're promotional pamphlets, and they can even give out the occasional regeneration, symbol of death, or mass hold monster. Their tail causes confusion and Charisma drain on a failed save and staggers on a successful one. And as if all that's not enough, they can also turn anything they come up against into a juju zombie under their control just by looking at it long enough. Have a captured enemy? Hold their eyes open, and soon they will be an undead ally with all their old abilities and then some. And there's no HD limit for how much you can control at any given time.
Yes, the hits start coming fast at this level. It's all good. Mind, the juju zombie serves the vrolikai, not you, so make sure it accompanies the demon back to the Abyss come the day.
Okay -- instead of the scroll, give Bob a Candle of Invocation. Attuned to the appropriate alignment, of course.
Mind, it doesn't have to be a pit fiend. Any sufficiently alarming outsider of around 20 HD will do. Season to taste.
Make it worse: Bob is Chaotic Evil and he's going to summon a qlippoth. (Note that the qlippoth racial resistance to being bound doesn't apply to Gate spells.) Payment will be in human lives, of course. In this version Bob is kind of nuts, and it's not really clear what his endgame is.
Make it worse in a different way: Bob is Chaotic Good, and he lives in Evil Town. Lawful Evil, let's say. If you're in Golarion, perhaps a town or city in Cheliax. And Bob has suffered terribly, seen loved ones enslaved or killed, horrible crimes committed... So Bob is going to summon a 17 HD Brijidine Azata. Bob only has to be ~8th level for this (swap an orange ioun stone for the evil Orb), so he becomes a suitable antagonist for a group of 4th or 5th level PCs. If the PCs are evil, of course they want to stop Bob. If they're good... well, Evil Town is evil, but a combat with the enraged azata is likely to result in significant collateral damage. Also, don't forget the possibility that Bob is being manipulated; maybe some powerful devil wants the azata called for its own nefarious reasons...
Balance always has to be left up the particular DM. We've all seen campaigns where experienced players with a powergame orientation, acting as a well oiled machine, take down APL+5 opponents without breaking a sweat. Yes, giving Bob some meat shields and minions is definitely one way to balance this. Sure, maybe he's 11th level and has a bound outsider or two. Perhaps he's taken a level or two of Diabolist and has a couple of barbed devils on call. And an imp companion who's been encouraging him and giving him hints all along. (The Infernal language has a word for Diabolist. It translates as Useful Fool.)
Also, don't forget that Spell Sage NPCs can be dangerous opponents, especially if they're blasty. With feat selection or some very minor magic items, a 10th level Spell Sage would have no problem throwing a 16d6 blast. Swap in a Diabolist's Hellfire Admixture power and that's enough to one-shot most 7th level good-aligned PCs if they fail their saves.
They all laughed at Bob, back at the Academy. No familiar! No school of magic! Not even a bound object! "Spell Sage", what is that? Well, Bob's going to show them. He's going to show them all.
Bob, a Spell Sage, has somehow acquired three interesting magical items: an Orb of Foul Abaddon, a Prayer Bead of Karma, and a scroll of Gate. Bob realizes that the first two items can be combined with his Focused Spell ability to give him a whopping +9 ECL on using the Gate scroll. This means that at 11th level he can call and control a 20 HD pit fiend! (If you really want to pile on, he can gain another +1 ECL by making a human sacrifice and casting Death Knell.)
Of course, casting Gate requires 10,000 gp. Bob can perhaps just barely afford that... but then the pit fiend will demand another 20,000 gp of payment (1,000 per hit die) once it has completed its duties. Bob doesn't have that kind of money. But that's okay! He's just going to command the fiend to loot the city's treasury and bring him the money. Then he'll have several other extremely clever commands for it, which he has thought out in considerable detail, so that there are of course no possible loopholes. When the dust settles, Bob will be wealthy beyond belief and master of the city, and his enemies will be, at best, very dead. Nothing could possibly go wrong with this well-thought-out plan!
(It does not occur to Bob what a curious coincidence it is that those three particular items should have fallen, one by one, into the hands of a caster just barely powerful enough to use them. Hey, Bob's a busy guy with a lot on his mind.)
The PCs' job: figure out what Bob is up to, and stop him. You can introduce Bob earlier in the campaign, when he's first acquiring these items, one by one. Once he's got the third... well in theory he could cast Gate on the spot. But he may need to scrape together enough cash for the casting cost, and then there may be a Death Knell sacrificial victim to be acquired, and then of course he'll just HAVE to cast the Gate spell in some suitable location, like on top of the city's tallest building. So there are several points where the PCs can rush to cut him off. Of course, it's possible that Someone much more powerful is using Bob as a catspaw, and wants him to succeed...
Bob would be 10th or 11th level, making him a good opponent for a group of 7th-8th level PCs.
Minor tweaking: deathwine only works on necromancy spells, and there are several alchemical reagents that give +1 to particular spell schools.
That said, an impressive list! Some of these are a bit impractical in-game (the supply of Accursed bloodline sorcerors is probably not that great) and a couple might not easily apply to using Gate. But there's enough to work with here that a determined PC should have no trouble getting +6 or more on his ECL.
Okay, you don't need to be a divine caster, but you definitely would need to have UMD. A bit further down: "the beads of karma and summons can be activated by any character capable of casting divine spells." So you'd need a UMD roll to fool them.
Hi! You forgot to mention things that raise your caster level, like a prayer bead. Use that and you can control a solar NP.
There are a lot of things that help with caster level checks -- a magician bard's dweomercraft, the cyphermage's Focused Scroll, the otherworldy kimono, you name it. But the list of things that directly raise your ECL is a lot shorter. Here are the ones I can think of offhand:
ahem. Okay, did I miss any?
I've been thinking about Forbiddance vs Gate and at the moment probably go with the following. The Gate would in fact form (the creation subschool effect) but travel via the Gate would be blocked as long as the Forbiddance remained...
In metagame terms, the whole point of Forbiddance is to have some way to prevent high level PCs from teleporting directly the the McGuffin -- the villain's lair, the lowest level of the dungeon, wherever -- without actually having to slog through any other encounters.
I'm not unsympathetic to that. But I'm also sympathetic to the idea that once PCs hit a certain level, these kinds of road blocks should no longer apply. If you're 18th level, by Crom you should be able to teleport straight to the villain's lair. Grinding through his outer defenses is minions' work.
Also, I'm kind of old school about 9th level spells. These are the biggest, baddest spells of all, the ones that your wizard has spent seventeen long levels climbing laboriously upwards to. "Ooh sorry, some character six levels lower than you cast Forbiddance and now you're euchred" violates the Rule of Cool in a big way IMO.
That said, the RAW is IMO unclear. So if my DM said "sorry, Forbiddance trumps Gate", I might roll my eyes a little but then I'd carry on with the adventure. YMMV.
Hi! You forgot to mention things that raise your caster level, like a prayer bead. Use that and you can control a solar NP.
Ha, good point. Well... it's unclear to me whether those would work with Gate. The spell does say "caster level", so I guess probably yes: anything that boosts your ECL would work.
Whoa, that could make a difference.
...as noted above, it's unclear under RAW whether Gate gives you access to extradimensional spaces, because those aren't "planes" as such.
That said, by the time you can cast Gate you should have access to the Create Demiplane spell. So you can just create a little demiplane that's accessed from your gazebo or something, and go in and out through that.
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!