Invisible bat riders throwing fireballs - Best uses and best counters?


Advice


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Fly Fox is a quadruped (albiet is a weird one) and has really high strength for a mundane animal of its size which can further be boosted with Mauler familiar. I made a build (stats and wealth as an NPC) around that for the hell of it.

Bat Rider CR4
XP 1,200
Human Wizard 5
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +7
Defense
AC 16, touch 16, flat-footed 14 (+4 mage Armor, +2 Dex)
hp 30
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +4
Offense
Speed 30 ft.
Space 5ft.; Reach 5 ft
Illusionist Spells Prepared (CL5th; Concentration +15)
3rd- Fireball, Fireball, Invisibility Sphere**
2nd- Invisibility, Resist Energy (2)*, Protection From Arrows*/Bull’s Strength*.
1st- Ant Haul*, Mage Armor*, Blurred Movement**, Feather Fall, Shield**
0 (at will)- Ghost Sound, Mending, Mage Hand, Message, Prestidigtation, Dancing Lights
Opposition Schools Necromancy, Enchantment
Tactics
Before Combat Upon leaving camp a Bat Rider casts the spells marked * (included in stat block). If a Bat Rider spots an enemy encampment she casts the spells marked ** (not).
During Combat A Bat Rider uses fireball on concentrations of supplies (remember, this doesn’t break invisibility) or troops, then reapplies invisibility and flees. A Bat Rider uses her flight to stay high enough ranged weapons suffer heavy ranged penalties (even a longbow or ballista has a -10 at 600 feet of distance).
After Combat A Bat Rider is still an invaluable asset as messengers, cleaners, and signalers.
Statistics
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 18, Wis 10, Cha 13
Base Attack +2; CMB +1, CMD 13
Feats Mounted Combat, Undersized Mount, Combat Casting, Uncanny Concentration, wizard bonus feat that's not really important
Skills Ride +6, Perception +7, Spellcraft +12, Fly +9, Knowledge (Arcana, Nature, Nobility) +12
Languages Five.
Gear Spellbook, Wizard’s Kit, Spyglass, Exotic Military Saddle

Bat Familiar
Bat, Flying Fox
LN medium Magical Beast
Init +0; Senses Low Light Vision, Scent, Perception +10
Defense
AC 16, touch 10, flat-footed 16 (+3 Armor, +0 Dex, +3 natural)
hp 15
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +4
Offense
Speed 10ft., flying 60 ft. (average)
Melee Bite +5 (1d6+3)
Ranged
Space 5ft.; Reach 5 ft
Statistics
Str 17, Dex 11, Con 12, Int 6, Wis 14, Cha 5
Base Attack +1; CMB +4, CMD 14
Feats Skill Focus (Perception)
Skills Fly+8, Perception +10
Languages Common (Can not speak)
Gear Muleback Cords, Masterwork Studded Leather

As a quadruped, Enlarge Person ups a Bat Rider’s carrying capacity (normally 399) to 1038 and this can be further increased to 4194 with Ant Haul and Bull’s Strength. A nation employing Bat Rider’s may use them to deliver troops behind barriers and fortifications (Guards with gear weigh around 250, that’s enough for a rider, 15 men and most of a 16th. Going by the weight of ladders and chairs one could easily make a scaffolding to hold 15 soldiers within the remaining weight.).

Now how do you counter these things, either as troop droppers or as supply burners? All I can think of is opposing wizard 5 with see invisibility using Fireball and Acid Arrow is the only way they can really be damaged as far as I can tell, and 1: See Invisibility is only 10 mins a level (so it has to be cast reactively to the invisible rider getting the first attack in) 2: Resist Energy blocks fireball or acid arrow one of the two from being a real threat. 3: That requires an equal level caster respond (Acid Arrow from a Wizard 3 doesn't have enough range)


To use them against a party, or enemy if using them as a party, clusters of three, swooping in and hitting fast, always returning to the safety of the skies. Hit supplies first to always hurt even if they immediately cast See Invisibility and start hitting you with Phase Locking bows and Anchoring or Dispelling arrows.

To defend against them, Alarm spells if you have any overhead cover. Either way, cast See Invisibility as soon as your stuff starts to explode, shoot them with Phase Locking bows and Anchoring or Dispelling arrows.

These are good fun, though. It takes Mystic Enlarge Person to get the tiny Fox Bat to medium, right?

But given their CR, nobody has Phase Locking bows yet, but shoot them with arrows after you cast See Invisibility and Fly on the person with the bow. Somebody will have a magic bow or magic arrows to bust through the Protection From Arrows. A Vanilla Fighter can have Ace Trip at level 6.


Medium size is a property of the Mauler familiar archetype. Enlarge Person (via share spells) just gets it to large size.


Bull's strength only lasts 5 minutes for this wizard, they need to have an immediate destination in mind for it to last long enough to be useful. Similarly with blurred movement. It's also not clear to me that the mauler's polymorph to Medium size and enlarge person stack - though the latter isn't tagged as a polymorph effect that's clearly what it is.

Any counters would be specific to a particular party. Many might be able to survive the fireballs via cover, illusions, their own resist energy or whatever then could hunt the bat riders back to their base once they've spent their load. Some can close distance really fast with cheetah's sprint or something, then can do unto the enemy from closer range. Some could have an infusion of see invisibility and a competent archer. Some will die horribly to this or horse archers or anything similar.


Generally something like "behind the enemy's walls" or "the other side of the river" is reachable in five minutes and pretty useful to drop troops on and that kind of barrier makes sense for an allied camp to be near enough. The bat can support the bat rider her own (assuming female because the weight savings) and their gear without muleback cords or anthaul, it's just shoved into heavy weight category.

Seems Mauler won't stack with Enlarge Person. Replace it with Strong Wings to get the most distance while buffed (a bit under 3 kilometers if you leave a safety net for invisible getaway). That's still 2097 pounds under ant haul+bull's strength. Still 6 or 7 men that just suddenly appear behind enemy lines. Without Bull's Strength the limit is 1197 pounds, which is still two or three guys, a pair could easily carry an adventuring party.

That's an interesting plot hook as for the PCs allies actually: The besieging army will transport you into the castle to get the gate open (or otherwise render it vulnerable to attackers). Makes an interesting, open-ended dungeon (here's the castle exterior, where do you want to be dropped?) and has an interesting objective: Not only do you have to open the gate, the PCs have to survive and keep them open till the relief force gets there.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm not sure how you consider a bat to be a quadruped.

Flying at level 5 is a fairly powerful ability. That said, I would expect even the weakest castle (or equivalent army) to easily be able to counter this tactic. It might work once, but once they new what to expect it would be simple. Even one well built 5th level archer with a magic bow and some way to see invisible could kill the familiar in one round, leaving the wizard feather falling into enemy hands (and already out of spells) and anyone else being carried plummeting to their death.


See Invisibility and Glitterdust would be my first choice to try and counter Invisible attackers as a wizard/arcane caster (indoors in particular). Then every one can see them not just me.

But Fireball has some serious reach and the main difficulty for the defenders is going to be range vs the Rider/Bat. This means Glitterdust, Dispel Magic, Magic Missile among others are off the table at the level the attacker is supposed to being dealing with. So the best bet for a fixed fortification is going to be keeping the valuables out of LOS. All range as a defense is off as soon as they close enough to deposit any raiders ...

A baggage train or caravan is a bit trickier but again LOS is the best answer, just keep the supplies within a covered wagon or other transport and if possible inside a container (chest, trunks, barrels) under the cover of the covered wagon.

In either case have plenty of fire fighting supplies and or spells ready which is good idea in general anyway. Pyrotechnics could be very useful in both snuffing out the fire and providing concealment via smoke to the defenders. Quench (Drd 3rd) might be available. At 7th level a Lesser Globe of Invulnerability may come into play especially for strongholds as the CR of several of these bats with Riders and any drop troops pushes the encounter up quite a bit.

I might try the same trick only using Heat Metal. Heat Metal the range is short but there's no obvious ('fire bead and ball of flame') so you might have several rounds to fly away or attack other unattended objects prior to the spell getting to 'searing hot' and igniting combustibles around it. And, of course, there has to be metal available to target. Though you might just supply that yourself ... Rider targets a bit of chain, iron spike, etc. he's carrying and drops it into/onto a target.


Kayerloth wrote:
See Invisibility and Glitterdust would be my first choice to try and counter Invisible attackers as a wizard/arcane caster (indoors in particular). Then every one can see them not just me.

For a castle defense I would be inclined towards something like some steam-powered flour cannons. Useless against the fireballs but it would make life hard on raiders.

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A baggage train or caravan is a bit trickier but again LOS is the best answer, just keep the supplies within a covered wagon or other transport and if possible inside a container (chest, trunks, barrels) under the cover of the covered wagon.

Fireball can light the wagons on fire.


Sure the wagon could be set on fire with a Fireball, but unless the wagon materials are fairly flammable the resulting fire shouldn't be terribly hard to put out if, as I said, you have fire fighting supplies available. Fireball is quite hot (very), its also very brief in duration (instantaneous). I'd expect some fairly significant table variation on how easy and thoroughly you could set a wagon on fire with a single Fireball. Might be more dangerous in killing and disabling the creatures used to pull the wagons than in actually burning the wagon to the ground. The difference is the creatures can be the targets of spells like Resist Fire, the wagon can not.

That said a wagon or typical caravan vehicle is more vulnerable overall to hit and run with Fireballs than a stronghold is certainly.

Edit: Heh, no might about it, Fireball is far more dangerous to the creatures pulling the wagons than to the wagons themselves at least to my thinking if those creatures are horse or oxen or similarly ordinary creatures.


Remember the Oliphants in LOTR? Make some scaffolding and get a big group to ride the bats, and see if you can gear each of the bats up with some magical items. Ant Haul can work for a couple hours, and Bull's Str can only work for a few minutes. So get them some wearable items that do this.


One thing on range - reach spell is a thing. There are even official metamagic rods of it.


Ok, several problems with the assumptions.

First, the Bat needs to be at light encumbrance if it wants to fly. I've been looking for this in the rules, but the only place its alluded to is for mounts and barding where it says flying mounts can't fly if using medium or heavy barding. However, this is a carry over from 3.5 where it does explicitly say flying mounts need to be at light encumbrance.

Second, Muleback Cords and Ant Haul shouldn't stack. The item is based off the spell and gives an equivalent effect. You can't stack the same bonus even from multiple sources. With just bulls strength and either muleback cords or ant haul you're still talking about a light encumberance of 466 lbs or so. I wouldn't let you have a second passenger because you are already abusing a feat to allow you to mount a medium creature.

Third: even if your GM is going to allow that, there is no way the bat can carry a bunch of troops by itself. Even with a bit of scaffolding it just won't work. Try picking up 50 lbs of empty cardboard boxes (no putting the boxes inside of each other or flattening them) and running with it across a street. You seriously can't do that. The weight isn't the problem.

Also you're making these feats do more than a feat that explicitly gives you a flying mount! On those grounds alone this should be a no.

Similar feat for flying mounts: https://www.d20pfsrd.com/feats/general-feats/monstrous-mount/

Fireball cast against an inanimate object is an attack against an inanimate object. You become visible.

Also casting spells on a mount is going to force a concentration check. Just being on a moving horse or wagon is a vigorous motion (DC 10+level), a flying mount should be much bumpier either a violent or extremely violent motion (bumps DC up 5 or 10 respectively).

The biggest flaw to this tactic is going to be identifying the target. Once invisibility sphere is cast you'll have 5 minutes to locate what you want to hit. Considering the negatives on perception checks, that means closing to within 100' (only -10 to perception) to identify the target and then backing out to a safe distance. You'll still need time on the Invisibility Sphere to shake any pursuers.

After the first few successful raids (surprise should be on your side, unless you did this to a previous enemy) it should be very successful. After that...spread out some scouts to look for flying wizards. You'd do this to prevent your army from being ambushed anyways, it just means adding some extra scouts that are told to watch the skys. If spotted the scouts would send 2 runners back to the camp, and then gather to try and pick the wizard off when he flees. Chances are if they spotted him coming in, they can spot him leaving too. Or not. Worth the tiny bit of effort this takes for regular scouts to do something.

The major flaw with this plan would be trying to hide the supplies. A simple tarp with a first level ranger throwing grass on top of it can make this a skill vs skill situation where you're trying to overcome his passive stealth (say DC 16 because NPC) with you taking -1 range penalty for every 10'. If they have a lot of supplies, they could even set up fake supply boxes (just use the empty ones, distribute the supplies early to the men).

As for countering your wizard, have a wizard wait around with Fireball and a dozen normal guards trained in perception watching for the fireball. There is a very good chance they'll be able to spot where it came from, and inform the wizard in time to return a fireball before the flying pair and invis the wizard again. The return fire has a very good chance of killing the mount. It doesn't have to be fireball. Any area effect spell works, including lightning bolt or even ice storm. All it needs is range. This works even better if there are multiple wizards returning fire. Best of all, if the wizard gets a heads up that an invis flying is coming (say from a drum signal from the scouts) he can cast see invis. Then it is a contest between perception scores of who spots their target first. The flying bat isn't stealthy since it has no concealment vs the wizard with see invis. As a matter of fact, the ground wizard should receive a bonus on perception because his target is moving rapidly, like a +10 or even +20 modifier.


Invisibility will not be broken if no creatures are caught in the Fireball and only unattended objects as clearly noted in an example within the text of Invisibility "cut the ropes holding a rope bridge while enemies are on the bridge". Not sure I'd agree that a flying mount particular a trained or intelligent familiar one not yet in engaged in combat maneuvering is inherently any more 'bumpy' than a one on the ground. Current wind conditions might change that more significantly than for one on the ground however.

Also the Riders have the strategic initiative ... the defenders would have to use extra guards/scouts every where they wanted to protect against the riders. The Riders can largely decide the when and where to fight. Pretty much the same issue regular forces have against insurgents when trying to protect supply lines.

Reach (and even Enlarge to an extent) as AVR said is a thing. About the only counter the Riders have for that issue is the same as above. Good recon and intelligence to learn when, where and who to strike. And, of course, nothing prevents the Riders from also using metamagic. To a certain extant having to place extra scouts, more wizards with specific items just to try and stop the Riders is already a victory of sorts for the Riders as their enemies are expending extra effort and resources to defend against them specifically at that point.

PS: Much as AVR said upthread there are plenty of counters and also plenty of similar types of 'irregular' forces who use hit and run tactics. This is a fantasy variant of such a group and could make for an interesting encounter for PCs to deal with instead of more archers hiding in the woods or riding horses.


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The item is based off the spell and gives an equivalent effect.

Actually Ant Haul triples capacity and Muleback Cords add +8 effective strength. Completely different. Would be like saying Gloves of Dueling and Greater Magic Weapon don't stack.

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Third: even if your GM is going to allow that, there is no way the bat can carry a bunch of troops by itself. Even with a bit of scaffolding it just won't work. Try picking up 50 lbs of empty cardboard boxes (no putting the boxes inside of each other or flattening them) and running with it across a street. You seriously can't do that. The weight isn't the problem.

If Pathfinder worked on real world physics, that would be absolutely correct. Nowhere in the game will the fighter trying to lift a 600 pound boulder push himself into the ground instead, nor does the fallen tree he picks up snap somewhere along its length, unable to support its length. As such I assume all heavy lifters follow the same rules that Superman does and unless the rules say it poor aerodynamics of carried items mean nothing.

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Also you're making these feats do more than a feat that explicitly gives you a flying mount! On those grounds alone this should be a no.

Ignoring how none of the feats are used to get a flying mount and that the feat in question is generally considered to be terrible, I point out that a belt of Constitution +2 (let alone +4, +6 or a tome of con) does more than the Toughness feat does.

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Also casting spells on a mount is going to force a concentration check.

Hence Uncanny Concentration (and prerequisite Combat Casting) as a feat. Stops the need for concentration checks from that entirely.

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There is a very good chance they'll be able to spot where it came from, and inform the wizard in time to return a fireball before the flying pair and invis the wizard again.

Doesn't work if invisibility wasn't broken. Mount isn't standing still, it's moving 40-50 feet+ per round, 100 if we ignore the "double moving creatures can't use stealth" thing on invisible creatures due to making zero sense (not that it makes total sense without it. A character darting from cover to cover to approach a tower unseen when it's too far away to hear him is impossible under that rule.). By the end of the fireballer's turn it's well outside the radius of return fire. Even ignoring how odd being able to communicate the exact "square" of open sky a target is in , the guards also don't work anyways: The perception penalties work both ways.

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The major flaw with this plan would be trying to hide the supplies. A simple tarp with a first level ranger throwing grass on top of it can make this a skill vs skill situation where you're trying to overcome his passive stealth (say DC 16 because NPC) with you taking -1 range penalty for every 10'. If they have a lot of supplies, they could even set up fake supply boxes (just use the empty ones, distribute the supplies early to the men).

This one however works quite well and is a good solution.


Meirril wrote:
Third: even if your GM is going to allow that, there is no way the bat can carry a bunch of troops by itself. Even with a bit of scaffolding it just won't work. Try picking up 50 lbs of empty cardboard boxes (no putting the boxes inside of each other or flattening them) and running with it across a street. You seriously can't do that. The weight isn't the problem.

Disagree.

Take those 50# of cardboard boxes, tie ropes to them and drag them across the street.

Doesn't work too well because the boxes are scraping, but the bat is flying so that problem goes away.

You don't want scaffolding on the bat, you want ropes and the cargo hanging underneath. That should work fine for as much weight as the bat can carry.

The Exchange

Are we really trying to discuss how to counter "invisible flying bomb droppers"? This has been the question of every war in every century that has used bomb dropping flying technology since the beginning of time. In the early 20th century the highest bomb droppers were free from fighter intervention (until jet power). This meant campaigns of carpet bombing. Combat it with the same technology: invisible flying bomber/fighters. Upgrade to invisible dragons.

The way it was countered was with a pretty simple weapon: Lyre of Building. Dig in. Dig in deep. Let the bomb the ground. No line of sight for magic means no line of effect. Pretty simple - you have 20 feet of dirt over your head you are safe.

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