For what it's worth, I'd be gladly willing to settle for an archetype that moves to Cha casting instead of Wis casting. If the general urge is the base class should keep Wis, I'm alright with that but would love some kind of alternative to exist.
This class is very, very close to being the "All Alignments Paladin" I deeply want, and that one change would be enough to get it there for me.
ciretose: A 'penalty' I've been glad to live with on the builds that use it, because getting to pick another domain of your choice usually makes up for it quite well.
The point I'm getting at is that I don't agree with the 'absolutism' in a lot of your posts on this topic. There is room to disagree with even a deity (remember, they are explicitly not all-powerful or all-knowing) on topics of their faith... and even weapon choice.
I can easily see a Warpriest of Desna looking at a starknife and saying, "You know... I get what you're going for from a symbolism and philosophy aspect, but this thing is not a good primary weapon for my combat style*. If I'm going to be going out there I need to fight the way I'm comfortable with. I'm going to focus on glaives/greataxes/whatever."
*: Yes, this is even with the weapon group adjustments you discussed.
Edit, replying to Scavion: I would love this! It adds some flavor, does something a little unusual compared to its direct peer (the Cleric), and adds a story hook; the warpriest could have an evangelical aspect to them where they go out and try to win new followers to their faith.
Yet any option that isn't optimal sucks...
Let me give you a personal example of why this matters: I have some character concepts whose dogma and leanings point them toward martial deities like Milani, Iomedae, or (this is stretching her definition ever-so-slightly, I admit) Sarenrae. Maybe even Desna (EDIT: Who is not very martial, I admit). As part of this concept, I would like to see those characters use polearms. No, I'm not talking a fauchard. I'm talking things like a glaive, horsechopper, or lucerne hammer.
"Play a Shelynite, they favor glaives" one might say. Shelyn's belief system does not match the concepts I wish to play. Iomedae, Milani, Sarenrae, and so on do. This would actually be 'playing to mechanics' rather than playing wholly to flavor. I want a certain belief system for that character, but a different weapon. It's not even some super-cheese polearm out to win the DPR Olympics.
I'd like this class to be open to that kind of compromise, where I pick the story flavor I want but go with another weapon if I don't like the existing one the deity favors. Right now the class isn't delivering on this. Maybe it won't no matter what. I don't know that one way or the other. Nonetheless, if I don't speak up then I won't be heard and the developers won't even consider my wishes when designing this product they hope I (and many others, who may have different needs and opinions) will purchase.
I don't need optimal. I want options. Right now, "go play a martial-evangelist of Shelyn if you want your polearm" seems almost like the opposite extreme of what you were arguing against... it'd be picking a deity for their weapon rather than their belief system. I want something a little more directly martial than Cleric, while still having some weapon options. If I have to give up some spellcasting for it, that's fine and dandy by me.
DM Beckett wrote:
Ill second that the paladin of any alignment is not the way to go. In all honesty if thats what you want, scratch off the Lawful and/or Good,
That's simply not an option in sanctioned (PFS) play. You can't do that, and it restricts a very fun set of class mechanics to only one of nine alignments... then saddles it with that fight-at-table-causing Code of Conduct. This may not be a problem for everyone, but it has been in my experience and is one of my major ongoing complaints with Pathfinder. I will be a little sad if a chance to fix it is missed.
This may not be "The goal of the Warpriest", but the Warpriest as currently envisioned seems really redundant. Significant revision will be needed, and the BAB behavior will be part of it. As it is, I just look at the class and go "...Nah. Pass."
Jason, thank you for dropping by with your thoughts. I'd like to offer a few more opinions, if it's okay:
- Don't be afraid to seriously rework the whole of this class. This is one case where very bold steps will be justified and likely to be well received! The class in its current state just struggles to be relevant when Fighter/Cleric multiclassing exists, plus several other d8, 3/4 BAB divine caster types are available.
- In brief, what I want to see the Warpriest be is an all alignments replacement to the Paladin. I want the Paladin's general play mechanics (d10 HD, 4 levels of spellcasting, full BAB, similar Smite/Lay on Hands/etc. behavior) minus the Code of Conduct; many GMs and fellow players are so hard on Paladins that they have to be played as better than actual Celestial Outsiders. It's deeply frustrating; I love the class' play mechanics, but their fluff causes so many problems at the table that I just can't bring myself to run a Paladin. The Warpriest seems like a fine chance to not only rectify this, but also expand the Paladin's style of play mechanics to all the alignments rather than just LG.
- Designing the class around the deity's favored weapon is, in its current form, a mistake. Some deities just have really unappealing weapons (Dagger, staff, morningstar to a much lesser extent, starknife, etc.). Either there needs to be some way to get around this, or the mechanics need to be revised to not focus on one weapon so much. I don't mind if a Warpriest looks at their deity's tenets and says: "You know what? You prefer a weapon that simply doesn't suit my needs. I'm using THIS thing instead" and is all the more effective for it.
- This is too front-loaded. You've acknowledged that, so I'm only briefly repeating it; Warpriest 1 is an amazing dip that, as written, a lot of my builds would consider taking. Even just moving some of this stuff to Warpriest 2 would do a lot to curtail the dipping temptation.
I haven't had much chance to play the class, but I did look through it and admit I'm disappointed. We already have several classes, and intuitive multiclass paths, that do what this class mostly accomplishes. It's basically a Cleric with a bit of Fighter dipping. If I want to do that, I can easily just build a Cleric that picks up 1-3 levels of Fighter. It doesn't involve much rules gymnastics, and I suspect it would be the mechanically superior character anyway.
Was hoping the Warpriest would be more the 'Paladin equivalent for the other alignments.' Full BAB, d10 HD, focusing on war primarily, with 'priest' being their secondary thing. This is more like a Priestwar, to use an odd term. I already have plenty of d8, 3/4 BAB divine classes to work with for the various alignments.
As it is, while I'm open to being talked out of this... my first glance at the class does not leave me feeling it addresses any serious mechanical or thematic gaps that I couldn't already handle with some easy builds.
What I want out of hybrid classes is easily facilitating concepts that are hard to do with traditional multiclassing. Failing that, I want them to add some interesting new ideas.
Given this is the class I was most looking forward to, I am a little disappointed. At least some of the others are neat, and I appreciate that the devs are clearly watching these threads.
(Edited shortly after posting to remove a duplicate 'Skills' section. Whoops.)
Foreword: This article (and others like it) assumes your character is a Wizard or Sorcerer willing to research and meet the prerequisites. I assume Summoners can do most of the same tricks and likely do them better, but I'm writing this from the perspective of the older classes instead. Other classes may benefit as well.
The Silvanshee Agathion is a seemingly odd choice regardless of whether you're using it as a Summon or a Familiar, since it's not very useful in a fight. This holy cat's real value emerges in other situations, where its unassuming appearance and mix of special abilities allow it to influence events in ways many of its peers simply can't match (or if they can, they can only cover some of the same uses). Useful as a scout, emergency healer, universal translator, and more, the Silvanshee rewards creative play.
Before we begin, you may want to review the following stats. Note that Summoning them requires the Summon Good Monster feat, and using them as a Familiar requires the Improved Familiar feat.
Normally this is where I would offer a quick overview of its combat stats, but let me blunt: Silvanshee Agathions are just short of worthless in a fight. Their AC and speed are fine, but even at full power their damage output is pathetic compared to Summon Monster I's Eagle (nevermind its Summon III peers). They're Tiny, have no Reach, and even a full Pounce attack doesn't do much. If a Silvanshee Agathion is engaging in direct combat, the situation has either gone very wrong or you're trolling by having it pick fights with Level 1 Commoners. They are good at many things, but not combat.
So what do they excel at? Several things, such as these examples that should get your creative thoughts flowing.
Animal Translator: While having a Druid or Ranger handy for Wild Empathy is fantastic, not every party includes one. Silvanshees have a constant Speak With Animals effect, letting them fill roughly the same role. Has your party accidentally wandered next to a bear den and you don't want to fight? Have the Silvanshee tell them that. “We'll leave some food for you if you let us go” can resolve the encounter far less dangerously (and with far less healing resources used) than beating up wildlife will.
There's another benefit for summoning-oriented characters; you can use the Silvanshee as an 'order relay' for summoned animals. Unlike D&D 3.5, Pathfinder summoned Celestial/Fiendish animals don't have Intelligence 3 and don't have a language. They're Intelligence 2, with their normal animal behavior modified by their Good (or Evil) alignment. Most GMs will thus forbid them from following complex plans. A Silvanshee Agathion lets you get around this, giving summoned animals specific instructions. The instructions will still be limited by their Intelligence score, but now you can do things like tell an Aurochs to “Bash that door open” or a Dire Bat to “Let him ride you, go wherever he points”, or even tell a Leopard to “Attack ONLY that foe, no matter what!” In other words, they let you make summoned animals do things said critter normally doesn't understand.
Universal Translator: Their Truespeech ability lets them understand nearly all languages, which has obvious uses. The only caveat is they don't understand certain unique languages, such as Master-Familiar (which differs for every master/familiar pair). On the other hand, if you're using one as a Familiar then you can have them use that language to report things they overhear from foes; the enemy won't know exactly what information was being passed on (though they might have a decent guess).
Emergency Medic: While they can only do a single 1d6 Lay on Hands per day, Silvanshee do have unlimited uses of Stabilize and fly very quickly. If a PC or NPC is Dying, the Silvanshee can spend its own actions stabilizing them until proper treatment can arrive. It's not a Touch spell, it has a Close range so it's even easier for them to do this. Heroic Strength can also bring their Strength score up to 11 for a short time, and while this next part will have Table Variance it's worth trying anyway: You could have the Silvanshee use said increased Strength to bite down on someone's shirt collar or belt or whatever, and slowly drag them away. This is especially plausible for most Wizards and Sorcerers who probably don't weigh as much as a fully-armored Fighter would. Remember, most creatures can drag or push way more than they can carry.
Sure, having your unconscious character dragged away from the fight by a cat will probably look weird. Nonetheless, having your magical kitty stabilize and drag someone out of a bad situation can allow the rest of the party to focus on other problems. This is particularly convenient when facing villains who love to confront heroes with the cruel “Chase me, or heal the bystanders I just hurt?” choice; let the Silvanshee take care of the latter.
Courier/Thief: A Silvanshee's light load is 5 pounds, and they're limited in what they can actually carry due to having a cat-like body. However, this is still useful because they can Dimension Door (once per day) with themselves and up to five pounds of objects. They can't bring any creatures with them, but any items within the weight limit that they're touching can be teleported in this way. Imagine an important book in a place that is simply too small for even a halfling or gnome to get to, but a cat could reach. The Silvanshee could fly over to it, touch the book, then Dimension Door over to your character at its earliest opportunity. From there it's easy to just pick it up off the ground.
Their Flight speed might also let them rapidly carry other small objects, provided the item can fit in their mouth, be secured to their back, or wrapped in their tail. For example, you might have it chomp down on a potion vial (they're smaller than most fantasy art suggests!) and fly that over to someone who needs it.
Deity Hotline: One Commune a week with no material requirements seems pretty nice. While you're likely to only get supporting information with this, it's still a fantastic option to have. You may have to provide the Silvanshee a list of questions in advance, or even a flowchart for what to ask next if the deity responds in certain ways, but this isn't a problem. Just remember that the cat asks the questions, as it's the caster.
Compass: Constant Know Direction means even a party with poor Survival checks will have a decent idea where they're going.
Dancing Lights and Prestidigitation: While your character probably already has Prestidigitation, having a cat with it is not a bad thing; their spells have no components and thus the Silvanshee can do all the hilarious things a normal creature can... while being far less obvious about what's causing these effects.
Dancing Lights is likewise a flexible spell. Aside from its normal uses (including trolling, since who the hell is going to think a nearby hidden cat is causing them to appear?), you can use it as an improvised Glitterdust. Odd as it seems, let's assume your party doesn't have Glitterdust. You can simulate it by granting See Invisibility to the Silvanshee, and then have it frame Dancing Lights around the creature you want located. “Why not just use See Invisibility on yourself?”, one might ask. Well, doing it this way instead has the Silvanshee can spend its actions pointing out what square the target is in... and this lets everyone in the party take a whack at it. True, Miss/Concealment chances will still apply. However, having 4 to 6 people swing away on the target even with 50% miss rates is probably better than 1 person doing so even with no concealment chance.
Skills: While not very good at actual cat activities, Silvanshee make up for it by having ranks in things like Knowledge Arcana and Knowledge Planes. Their modifiers are low, but they can still Aid Another on some skills. If used as a Familiar, they can even aid your character in other skills. Imagine a holy kitty backing them up in Diplomacy, for example. +6 Survival and +6 Sense Motive also have some value.
Scout: An exceptional Stealth modifier plus flight movement and a cat mist form make this an incredibly mobile, survivable scout. Note that they have only +10 on Perception however, and they do not have the Scent ability. Other defensive abilities may help them get back alive, but be sure not to send them somewhere too dangerous. If they're a Familiar, this can be a good way to get them killed and you don't want that. Be smart on where you send them!
Cat Appearance: While their behavior might not convincingly pass for a cat if a nature expert (such as a Druid or Ranger) is observing them, everyone else will usually be fooled. This is normally a good thing. Guards won't usually freak out at a 'cat' wandering by to check the place out unless strays have absolutely no business being there. Random citizens are more likely to react well to a kindly cat than they are a fire elemental. Of course, this has a downside as well... Evil creatures might go out of their way to hurt Silvanshee. Also note that their cat body can do pretty much anything you'd expect a cat can. For example, they could just hurl their 20 pound selves atop a switch to operate it, or shove something off a shelf by nudging it with their head, or so on.
Cat's Luck: Giving a nearby ally a +1 to all Saves isn't much on its own... but it's a Luck bonus, so is likely to stack with most other Save boosters they have. Not only that, but all it takes is one effect's Save DC to be met exactly by that +1 for you to see the value it can have. If someone is about to go somewhere dangerous, have the holy cat toss a +1 onto them. Note that ones granted by a summoned Silvanshee are likely to end as soon as the summon itself does, depending on how your GM interprets certain rules. Thus this use is usually better for Familiars.
Camp Watch: While their Perception of +10 is only decent, Silvanshee make great camp guards for one other reason... they don't need to sleep! They are true Outsiders, and thus don't need food, water, or sleep. A Familiar can set up in a hidden spot to watch over the party's rest and make a lot of noise if it sees trouble approaching. You might want a spare watchman anyway, but this still relieves some of the party's logistical needs. Especially since they have Low-Light Vision and Darkvision 60 Feet.
Good Alignment, Intelligent: Silvanshee can be counted on to do things in the summoner's/master's interest provided it fits their Alignment. If your character tells them to do something, they can understand most plans just fine (Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 13)... and are smart enough to adapt or even ditch the plan if complications come up. They might even bring plot hooks right to your character; “I found someone who needs help!” Besides, who do you want bringing problems to the party's attention... a heroic cat, or some smelly guy in shadowy robes at the tavern speaking those two famous words: “Ahh, adventurers!”? Exactly.
For those Summoning these creatures, please remember that Heroic Strength (the Silvanshee's ability) and Augment Summoning (the Feat) provide the same type of bonus to Strength... so they don't stack. Normal Silvanshees are Strength 3, Augmented are Strength 7, and 'Heroic mode' ones are Strength 11 (3 + 8) ignoring the +4 this Feat normally provides.
It's true that Silvanshee Agathions are terrible in combat, and most of their abilities can be duplicated by other means. However, they offer all these uses in one creature. Sorcerers in particular benefit from this, allowing them to summon a holy cat whenever one would be good to have around. They are also excellent Familiars both in regard to what kind of things they can do, and that they don't take the spotlight away from PCs. Nobody is going to mind if the kitty is on 'heal innocent bystanders' duty, watching camp at night, or serving as a translator; these are all uses that leave the PCs free to do the really heroic stuff.
That, and they're really cute. Who wouldn't want a spirit cat that embodies enlightened kindness?
Since others have beaten me to the primary joke, I'll introduce efficiency to it:
The Secondary Goal of Scenario 5-513 works best if you simply remove the word "no" from it. No messy rewrite of the whole sentence, just take that one word out and it suddenly works much better. Best of all, it even becomes a thematic bonus for followers of a certain deity that delights in arranging 'accidental' deaths.
Foreword: This article assumes your character is a Wizard or Sorcerer willing to meet the pre-reqs below. I assume Summoners can do most of the same tricks and likely do them better, but I'm writing this from the perspective of the older classes instead. Other classes may benefit as well.
Pre-requisites: Summon Monster II spell, Summon Good Monster feat. Augment Summoning is strongly advised and I will assume your character has it when I use any specific numbers.
Pseudodragons are not a standard summoning option, and at first they don't seem like an effective one when compared to heavy-hitting peers such as the Small Earth Elemental or other fliers such as Small Air and Small Lightning Elemental. Yet a closer look reveals several advantages, ones that reward clever players. Most valuable around levels 3 to 6, it nonetheless maintains some uses up to a few levels beyond that. Its ability to Fly while delivering Sleep Poison is an impressive threat, one that most opponents will go out of their way to attack if they're aware of this factor. If they aren't, a single lucky sting could put them to Sleep. You'll learn about both its combat uses and more subtle benefits here.
Where my numbers disagree with the PRD, Augment Summoning is usually why.
At a glance:
So we have a fairly mobile flier that does very low damage per hit, but has impressive durability for a CR 1 creature. The Bite isn't much use due to its lack of reach, but the tail's Sting is excellent. 1D3 damage is negligible, but Sleep can shut down an opponent in one hit; this requires a little luck yet is plausible. So, what can he do for you? Broadly, four things.
Hunting arcanists and other low Fortitude targets: Most arcane classes have a low Fort save, and fixing it requires significant resources. This means if you've identified such an opponent, you can tell the Pseudodragon to specifically go after them. It's Int 10 and most readings of Telepathy allow it to overcome language barriers, so the Pseudodragon will understand what you want. It will fly over there, deliver a Sleep-poison Sting, and that will usually be the end of the matter. Even if the spellcaster does make their Fort save, the Pseudodragon will be sticking around for a few more rounds and will simply keep trying. In other words, the mage now has a huge problem right in their face and must do something about it. Regardless of whether the mage falls asleep, calls for help from the front lines to protect it, or fights the Pseudodragon itself, you have relieved a lot of pressure on the party!
Flanking: Since the tail threatens out to 5 feet, the Pseudodragon can fly behind enemies and provide flanking to one of your allies. If it puts higher-AC, higher-Fortitude front line enemies to sleep then that's a fantastic bonus that lets your front-line allies move on to the next target all that much sooner, but granting +2 to hit for an ally is nice on its own.
Tanking: I'm absolutely serious. Sleep Stings are a huge threat to enemies; if they're aware of the possibility then they will react to it. This means they'll try to hit the Pseudodragon. While AC 16 isn't exceptional, having 19 HP plus Diehard with Con 17 is. Some summoning characters can even add Damage Reduction to them, making this even more effective. Toss a Pseudodragon at something it has an even halfway realistic chance of hitting and causing to fail the DC 16 Fortitude save, and most foes will give it very focused attention.
Spotter: They have Blindsense out to 60 feet. This isn't as good as Blindsight, but it's still enough for them to know what square an invisible foe is in. The Pseudodragon can then either swoop in and try to hit them (though Concealment will still apply), or fly above the target. If your character tells it to point at the invisible enemy's location, the Pseudodragon could then just tip its tail in the right spot. This will let martial characters take a swing at the correct square (Concealment, again, will still be in effect) while spellcasters and those willing to use splash weapons can just rain artillery on the location; so long as the Pseudodragon is flying high enough it won't be affected by the barrage.
Caution on Sleep: Most GMs play this as Sleep, not Unconscious. This means they'll probably allow subsequent damage to wake the Sleeping target up or otherwise be roused. Allies should be advised of this, so they can either Coup de Grace said foes or otherwise secure them.
Unfortunately, as you get into higher level adventuring you will find the Pseudodragon struggles to keep up. After a while, +6 or +8 (when flanking) won't be enough to hit targets reliably and DC 16 Fortitude saves (or 14 without Augment Summoning) are easily met. It has been my experience that Pseudodragons fight very well at levels 3 to 4, decently at 5 to 6, and are best left only for very ideal targets at levels 7 to 8. Still, this gives you three to four levels of adventuring where they are very useful... and by the time they become obsolete, Summon Monster III or IV will be available to give you adequate replacements.
While impressive, Pseudodragons have some flaws. Among them...
Inclement Weather: If the weather is too harsh, these Tiny Dragons may not be able to fly around well. +15 Fly checks are great in most circumstances, but tossing them into tornados and hurricanes might not work out so well.
Sleep-immune foes: There's no point sending them after elves and other such creatures. Those foes ignore the Pseudodragon's only meaningful combat gimmick, and with that removed you're doing a mere 1d3 damage per hit; even summoned Eagles or a Magic Missile casting will outdo that, and using a Level 1 spell slot to boot.
High AC, high Fortitude: While +6 is reasonably accurate at lower levels, foes with excellent armor and/or Fort saves (usually if they have one, they have both) are far less concerned about a Sleep Poison Sting than 'squishies' are. Pick your fights carefully. That said, if there's even a small chance of them failing the Fort save then this can be worth trying if the Pseudodragon is already on the board and has nothing else worth doing; few enemies will risk even a 10 or 15% chance of being dropped in one hit and will either focus on the Pseudodragon or at least not hand it Attacks of Opportunity.
Out of Combat
Pseudodragons have several fun uses when not fighting... though you may be limited by how long the Summon spell lasts. Since they have Intelligence 10, Wisdom 12, and a language, they understand commands as well as most people do (or perhaps even slightly better than people). This also means they have enough mental presence to do other things unrequested if it's in line with the summoner's goals or the creature's Neutral Good alignment. Among the more useful or fun tricks are...
Scout: Flight plus a +19 Stealth (+23 in Forests) makes them fairly well suited to this. Tell them to fly ahead, quickly check out what can be seen, then come back and report before the Summon ends. Their Perception is only +6, but their various Senses can help a little with this.
Retrieving Small Objects: If Mage Hand just won't do, a Pseudodragon might suffice. They can carry about 19 pounds (Strength 11 means 38 pounds carrying capacity Light Load, halved for being Tiny equals 19) in flight, presuming their claws, teeth, and tail can wrap around it well enough to get a decent grip. While GMs may impose limits on this, in general it's possible for them to retrieve weapons, chairs, books, holy symbols, spell component pouches, and so on. Note they are not good at combat maneuvers, so this is best done for unattended or recently dropped objects.
Voices in Your Head: Either by using their excellent Stealth or someone providing a Vanish or Invisibility spell for them, Pseudodragons can get within 60 feet of a target, stay out of sight, and begin saying things right into their mind via Telepathy. It takes a generous GM for this to work, but you could do things like instruct the Pseudodragon to pretend it is actually a long-range magical message. A guard mentally hearing something like “This is an urgent message from the captain, urgent enough he had me use magic to contact you. Get back to headquarters right now,” or similar commands might be willing to abandon their post. So long as they can't see any obviously nearby creatures causing this, they'll probably be at a loss to explain how else they're hearing this voice in their mind.
...Or if you just want to be hilarious, have the Pseudodragon telepathically broadcast rambling nonsense and make the recipient think they're going crazy!
Activating small switches/etc.: While their body shape isn't ideal for this, it's plausible for a Pseudodragon to operate switches and similar devices. GMs may not allow some uses of this, but it's worth asking them if they think it's plausible before you bring this summon in.
Good Alignment, Intelligent: Pseudodragons have a conscience and will either act on their own or report back if they find something they think the PCs should care about. While an Elemental might simply carry out the plan given to it, their Intelligence 4 and Neutral alignment mean they're not likely to care about anything outside your exact orders. Intelligence 10 and a Good alignment means the Pseudodragon will probably come back and notify its summoner about the crying child in the next room (or even just ask the child to follow it back to the party, perhaps), or that the summoner's orders are risky (“If I steal the key from the next room, the dozen guards are going to notice and follow me right back to you; are you sure you want me to do that?”).
Thanks to Telepathy, if the summoner is relatively nearby then they can even give such updates silently (and thus not raise any alarms).
Skills: They only post a +5 on Diplomacy, but they can indeed try it. If nothing else, some GMs might let them Aid Another someone else on such checks. Sense Motive +6 and Survival +6 may also have occasional uses.
Appearance: Pseudodragons, in their official art, do not appear particularly threatening (some might even say they're “cute” or “adorable”). NPC reactions may vary, especially depending on your GM, but at the very least they're not as alarming as summoning living flame (Fire Elementals), various demons and devils, and so on. If a bystander spots a Pseudodragon and isn't able to conclusively identify what it is, there's still some chance they won't panic like they would upon meeting some of the other summoning options.
While they're never going to win the DPR Olympics (You're better off with a Small Earth Elemental if raw damage is what you need), Pseudodragons are an excellent choice for those willing to make the investment of a spell (Summon Monster II) plus one to two feats (Summon Good Monster and optionally Augment Summoning). They're useful combatants against softer foes for several levels, and may retain some value in certain non-combat situations even after you gain Summon Monster III or above.
Creative use of their high speed, poison sting, telepathy, human-like intellect, senses, and other advantages will pay off, and it is for these reasons that I feel the Pseudodragon is worth considering whenever your character uses Summon Monster II with the appropriate feat(s).
Sometimes you wouldn't even need to save any of them. Sarenrae does expect followers to ask themselves, "Is this even plausible?" A pack of undead or Demons/Devils/etc. are the sort of things that can be destroyed outright. Likewise, Sarenrae's probably not going to bat an eye at your Cleric cutting down an entire bandit gang he witnessed destroying a village and cackling about how fun it was setting kittens on fire.
Mainstream Sarenism allows the Cleric to be realistic about who he spares. The daring burglar who steals valuable things but doesn't kill anyone in his work? A Sarenite would probably subdue him (with violence, even) but will make sure they do not kill or maim him if it's at all avoidable. The guy who was drafted into the evil imperial army? Also probably worth sparing because he doesn't want to be there to begin with and is only obeying out of threat of harm to himself.
This is also just how only the main sect behaves. Others are more extreme in one way or the other. Cult of the Dawnflower for example has a notably reduced interest in redemption, and will kill enemies as a first resort if they have even a basic justification for it. One supposes pacifist extremes, rare as they are, might also exist.
At any rate, you don't have to have your Cleric spare everyone. If confronted with an enemy, you can ask: "Would the world be genuinely better off with this foe dead and gone?" If the sincere, fair answer is "Yes, and there's no realistic chance of changing his ways", then scimitar away. Sarenrae understands some evil needs to be destroyed outright and will generally give your Cleric the benefit of the doubt unless he's egregiously violating her merciful/redemption tenets.
I'm reviving a topic that has been idle for several days, but with good reason. For anyone else in the future who may worry about this sort of thing, there's an excellent response you can use:
"It is every player's job to maintain the integrity and consistency of the game state if they are certain there is something wrong."
How explicitly clear this is made to the player varies by game and venue, but it is true. I know some WotC games had articles issued where they outright and specifically told the reader it is their responsibility. They even indicated you are to point out rules issues even if letting it go unmentioned is favorable to a player or party. Wish I could find those articles because they were pretty good references on this topic.
Nonetheless, it's not the player being 'a jerk.' They're doing what the game developers outright require of them. Anyone who gets after someone for insisting on adherence to an unambiguous, common, and important rule (playing out-of-tier can not only cause Session Revocation as mentioned above, but it can easily result in a domino-effect-of-PC-deaths situation) is out of line. Don't get bullied into doing the wrong thing.
The GM is not the only person tasked with ensuring game state integrity. They're the near-final arbiter (excepting VC escalations) of the game state, but everyone else is expected to contribute to this goal as well. If the game state is wrong then you speak up, even if being quiet would benefit a PC or the party as a whole. It's the right thing to do.
Things like "skeletons have to be bashed in, not cut or pierced" just reeks of common sense rather than metagaming. Things of that nature.
Responding to this in particular because, provided one is in a region that has this particular bush phenomenon, it's pretty easy to test this in real life. Suffice to say, you (TarkXT) are right. You can even demonstrate this to people with equivalent objects and they will quickly get the point.
Imagine yourself being confronted with a tumbleweed, and given any random melee weapon (it can even be a broomstick) you like to get rid of said tumbleweed. Are you going to try thrusting attacks on it? Probably not... and why not? Because it's composed of several rigid branches with gaps between them (edit: much like a skeleton). It's very likely your thrust would just pass through harmlessly, or only hit a small number of branches. Put more simply, you're doing reduced damage to the tumbleweed. Wide swings instead hit much more of it, and if you destroy one dry branch you're likely to carry through and hit more branches at the same time. Most people either know that right away, or figure it out after just one thrust versus one swing.
This is something even modern people can intuitively determine; rigid target with lots of gaps means using swinging attacks or you're wasting your time. I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with adventurers, who fight for a living, knowing this stuff right away without a Knowledge roll!
For what it's worth, Loot doesn't have to be 'of tangible value' to the PCs for them to care about it. A GM could probably depict some goblins randomly playing around with a stick, and the aforementioned PCs would kill the goblins primarily to take the stick from them. Even if it turns out to be a completely ordinary stick. Pretty apt definition overall, though!
A few more!
Chaotic Neutral: Shorthand for “My GM forbids Evil characters, so I'm going to play a Chaotic Neutral character who regularly steals from orphanages, tortures kittens, sets Iomedae's churches on fire, and throws rocks at bears my allies are trying to sneak around.” Totally not Evil. See also: Alignment, Character Concept (or “That's What My Character Would Do”), and Roleplaying.
Critical Hit: A particularly successful attack that deals at least double normal damage. Player Characters score these on opponents who have only 1 Hit Point left, while enemies invariably land them when it will do enough damage to instantly kill your character.
Rest: A cessation of adventuring for roughly eight hours, taken by the Adventuring Party after approximately every fifteen minutes of action. Characters regain Spells, Hit Points, and 'X uses per Day' class abilities in this way, though there is a chance the GM will lose patience with this and have meteors 'coincidentally' land on the party's tents. Even if they're underground. Especially if they're underground.
Spell Resistance: A form of defense wherein an enemy becomes very particular about the precise nature of the fiery explosion that hit it. Explosions created by funny hand motions and chants may be completely ignored, while virtually the exact same explosion created by gunpowder and sparks will do full damage.
Sunder: A Combat Maneuver for players who don't want to be invited back for future sessions with the group. It sounds incredibly useful on paper, as this maneuver lets you destroy an opponent's important items. On the other hand, said items tend to constitute most of your party's resale/Loot value for the adventure so expert sunderers tend to be very unpopular.
In a game as detailed as Pathfinder, backed by the intricate fictional setting of Golarion, it can be helpful to have a 'quick reference' guide to a lot of important terms that keep coming up. ...This thread will not be that guide. Instead, it will be a humorous version of something like that! I'll get things started by offering silly, mocking, or sarcastic definitions of some terms. Before I do though, you are strongly encouraged to contribute your own definitions or request others provide some for certain words. Definitions should NOT be helpful or serious, but rather comical! Cynical humor counts so long as it's actually funny and unlikely to provoke fighting in the thread. (I would advise not defining Paladins, for example, for this reason)
Adventuring Party: A gathering of four or more individuals with notable skill at weapons, magic, trap-finding, and other talents who are invariably hampered by either extreme paranoia or complete recklessness. Paranoid parties will spend four hours stuck at the first door in an adventure written for level 1 characters, casting every possible Detect spell on it followed by Take 20 on every Knowledge, Perception, and Search roll they can think of. When this reveals no traps, they will proceed to take the door apart on a molecular level “just to be sure” and ask for additional Knowledge checks to verify the exact grainage of wood the door is made of. May eventually require Railroading to get the adventure moving again.
Reckless parties have all the strategical and tactical acumen of the Kool-Aid Man, plowing headlong into obstacles no matter how dangerous it may be. Players in such parties tend to have great need for additional Character Sheets and may be frequent customers of Herolab.
Alignment: A decades-running prank by Gary Gygax, whose effects have persisted long after his death. A system that uses a maximum of two words and/or letters (in abbreviated form) to briefly sum up what specific reasons, motivations, and/or justifications any given PC or NPC has for breaking down the door, killing everyone inside, and taking all their stuff. Alternatively used to start fights between players when they disagree on which of the aforementioned motivations are truly Lawful, Chaotic, and/or Neutral Good (or Evil).
Broken/Overpowered: Any weapon, spell, or equipment that does more than 1 damage. Alternatively any such game content that does more than slightly annoy monsters. Paizo Publishing primarily stays in business by selling books full of Broken/Overpowered content and Adventure Paths where you can use said content to completely crush an Encounter with zero effort.
Critical Fumble: An outdated method of resolving weapon attack rolls that hasn't been a core rule since at least D&D 3.5 and likely a little further back than that. The rule supposes that a Natural 1 on a weapon attack roll does not simply reflect an automatic miss, but that your character is so dangerously uncoordinated that roughly one out of every twenty attacks they make will cause the weapon to go flying out of their hand or their bow-string to snap or any of several other outcomes more fitting in slapstick comedy than heroic fantasy.
For comparison, a weapon droppage rate of 5% would probably be enough to earn a soldier the nickname 'Butterfingers' and/or an immediate discharge on the grounds of 'dangerous incompetence.'
Summoned Monster: A creature that has been plucked from one of several planar realms, at least partially embodying an ideal of that plane. Effectively the equivalent of 'clock scamming' that one finds in professional sports, the summoned monster's purpose is to slow down the game as the player has likely forgotten to apply relevant templates, feat-based stat adjustments, and so on prior to calling the creature onto the board.
Sufficiently devoted players may take great delight in flooding the table with hordes of the same creature type, leading to bizarre situations where a heroic fantasy adventure instead gets derailed into being a reenactment of Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds.”
That's all I have for now. Feel free to take a shot at more terms!
This is a set of reactions and questions prompted by the recent article on Milani in the AP book "Shackled Hut", with some reference material before we get started: Paizo Store Product Link for Shackled Hut
Also relevant, Milani on Pathfinder Wiki. This broadly establishes she is a CG-aligned Lesser Deity who favors revolutions that have the express intent of installing a better government for the citizenry, and works together well enough with LG deities such as Iomedae.
Between that overview and the article, it brings up questions that I find interesting so I'm going to quote some pieces of it in the hopes it prompts good discussion.
Is Milani a minarchist?: Milani is unusual amongst Chaotic Good in that she seems to tolerate some government. Clearly she isn't an anarchist in the classical sense (meaning "no strong central authorities in the society", not "burning kittens in the streets and robbing everyone you come across"), as she allows "(fair) taxes that contribute to the betterment of society..." So, is she a minarchist (that is, someone who wants the smallest government that can maintain authority on topics of broad social interest, but shows no control in small-scale/private matters)?
Combined with her willingness to cooperate with Iomedae (who is Lawful Good Classic), can we infer that Milani and her followers generally want a government structure where any given topic is handled at the smallest possible unit of organization? That is, they start at "can an individual handle this?", and work their way up (Family/Friends, City Government, Regional Government, National Government, Worldwide Organization) only if the immediately preceding unit in that chain cannot deal with the matter? For the purposes of this question, you can substitute 'Church' or 'Privately Owned Company/Business/Guild' for 'Government' if it makes more sense on any given problem.
Clearly Milani wants some kind of organization, just one that favors individual freedoms as its main priority while simultaneously encouraging these free citizens to be excellent to each other. Where does she draw the line, though? Her CG alignment suggests there is one, else we're left to wonder why she's not NG or LG instead.
On Elves in Milani's faith: Clearly Milani avoids elven deities wherever possible, the AP68 article makes that clear. What about mortal elven followers, though? Does she try to discourage them (or possibly even forbid them?) from joining, or are actual elves quite welcome?
Expanded Summons: This brings up some fun questions, some of which are game mechanical in nature.
Defining 'Priest' - Is a 'priest' someone who casts any kind of spells and follows Milani? For example, can a Wizard with Milani as their deity cast Summon Monster I and bring in the Great Horned Owl? Edit: Or would this be strictly defined as Divine casters of this deity? Regardless of the answer, can it also be applied to other deity-expanded-summon lists in AP articles?
Great Horned Owl in general - What is its value as a summon? It appears to be slightly inferior to the Eagle overall (albeit cool looking). Can one apply the Celestial template to it when summoned through Milani's expanded summoning rules in this article?
CG Hound Archons - Now here's the real surprise; Milani counts among her celestial army... a breed of creatures that are supposed to be embodiments of Lawful Good. Here we have a CG deity with CG Archons. The flavor link I infer from this is it's meant to further illustrate her cooperation with LG forces ("Let's work together to beat up Evil, then we'll sit down and have a non-violent talk about what kind of 'Archy/Cracy/etc.' we're going to replace the deposed regime with.")
How common are they, though? Does this have any implications on similar creatures existing in other deities' realms? For example, LG Azatas, NG Archons/Azatas, etc.?
Hopefully these topics bring up some good things to discuss; AP68's article on Milani added some much needed details on an obscure but interesting deity!
Sean K Reynolds wrote:
which some lucky rolling-players get FOR FREE, INSTANTLY!"
(I admittedly only took part of your quote; it's the one I most want to touch on.)
Things like this are actually why I like static systems. Point Buy instead of rolled stats, Average HP based on hit die size instead of rolling random HP, and so on. I'd really rather go into a game knowing my character will this competent at a minimum on various matters.
Sure, rolling high on things is a lot of fun. However, the opposite really sucks and can sap the fun out of a session if you're left with too weak a character. And too good a character can make encounters (already designed to be 'a little tough but generally winnable') too easy.
Consistent HP, attribute scores, and so on makes it easier for adventure writers to know what kinds of PCs their encounters will face, and lets players build their characters in a consistent manner too. It takes a little of the randomness and dice rolling out of the game, but I'd actually argue in favor of reducing the number of 'lucky/have' players and 'unlucky/have not' players all at the same time by making certain aspects of a character be "always average." Granted, allowing retraining to max HP partially allows that. I just worry that it might trip into making encounters too easy if the entire party has it.
I really like that cover. Not only on its artistic merits, but also because I have an admittedly bizarre disdain for dragons and seeing one get punked is provoking the following reaction in me: "Oh-hohohoho, this is DELICIOUS! ...Don't be so hasty (in deleting those video tapes), not until I've seen those Street Dragons pummeled to dust; which should be any minute now! ...Yes! YESSSS!"
(Yes, this is a semi-obscure pop culture reference butchered for my own purposes.)
It definitely can be a fun build. I have something similar using Sorcerer levels instead of Cleric and it's viable aside from being really boring at levels 1 and 2. Level 3 and onward is great though!
Important Update: Since this thread was posted, the developers have responded on how Diehard-like effects work for Summoned creatures. Their specific reply is for how Ferocious Summons work, granting Ferocity, but it sets precedent for how the Diehard feat granted by Summon Good Monster works.
This isn't officially 100% official since the nouns are different, but I would be stunned if any GM seriously argued against this: FAQ Clarification on Ferocity and Summons
As a side note, this significantly improves Summon Monster I. It only really matters for the Eagle, Dog, and Dolphin (your water fighter if it ever comes up)... but it does keep them around longer. Of course, the 'level window' in which Summon Monster I is relevant is pretty small, but if you have ways to make this spell viable at character levels 1-3 then Diehard makes these creatures notably better.
Burst of Radiance is aggressively efficient, no question about that. I'm not sure it's broken/overpowered though. Compare it to several peers in the Sor/Wiz 2 and 3 lists and you see some trends emerge.
What does Burst of Radiance do? It is a Blindness effect with a short (yet meaningful) duration in a small Area of Effect, that also does moderate damage to targets provided they are Evil. The Blindness has a save (becoming Dazzled instead if they make it), but the damage doesn't... and is Typeless, as befitting an explosion of holy light. It also has Long Range. To be clear, only the damage cares about Alignment.
Let's compare it to Glitterdust. Glitterdust has less range, the same area of effect, and does no damage. However, Glitterdust's effects ignore Spell Resistance (a huge benefit), and have a secondary effect of negating a large chunk of Invisibility's benefits. This means Glitterdust is the superior choice if you're trying to sharply change the situation in a single spell. It is almost always relevant, it is more reliable, and it simultaneously reduces the enemy's damage output while making them easier to attack (provided they were invisible to begin with). Burst of Radiance is the second place finisher in this contest.
Flaming Sphere versus Burst of Radiance is interesting too. Flaming Sphere does less damage at once, but it repeatedly inflicts damage... several times over a single casting. It ignores Alignment; anything not Fire resistant cares about the Flaming Sphere. Against Neutral or even other Good aligned foes (though why your PC is fighting the latter with lethal force is anyone's guess), Flaming Sphere will actually do damage whereas Burst of Radiance will only inflict its Blind effect. Even against Evil foes, long-term the Sphere will inflict more damage per casting.
A quick comparison to Sor/Wiz 3 blasts tells us Burst of Radiance would be a terrible Sor/Wiz 3 spell, too. Stack it up against Fireball and see which one you'd rather have; it's probably Fireball, which should be the case given it's a full level higher.
None of this is to say Burst of Radiance is a terrible spell. It isn't. Quite the opposite, it's aggressively effective and a very strong choice for any PC that wants Long Range, typeless damage, and the potential to inflict Blind for a few rounds. There are however times where it will be borderline useless (this is true of its peers as well though, I admit) and several cases where you'd genuinely prefer other spells in the same level over it. Extremely useful and strong, sure. I just don't think it's overpowered.
Another quick thought on this: Even if the deities aren't powered by worship, they might have strategical interest in keeping worshipers safe by sending bits of their power to various wielders (again with the Clerics thing, I admit).
Consider this... clearly all sides involved are trying to influence Golarion to match their portfolio. Sarenrae wants a happy fun-time world of dancing and kindness backed by the strength to defend it. Asmodeus wants a world of dark hierarchy. What happens if either deity (or ANY deity, I'm just using those two as examples) succeeds? They now hold more territory that embodies their desires, giving them more resources to advance those goals in another area.
I suspect it's very possible the deities view Golarion as one strategically relevant location but also have other places they must devote resources to. This would suggest that outside of the Worldwound, they're keeping their actions relatively discrete and acting through agents they empower rather than directly showing up. They might win the Golarion front but lose another one as a result... and that's a best-case outcome. Given we know the gods can destroy an entire city in a single strike (Sarenrae does this to a city that openly worships Rovagug), it's possible the result might even be "Golarion destroyed, AND lost another front while I was out blowing up Golarion. Oops."
Also, the various books imply that the outer planes are in a continual state of conflict. The Gods spend a fair amount of time seeing to the upkeep and defense of their domains, as well as planar politics.
This, in addition to James' remarks, explain quite a bit of it. I wanted to add a little more, though. Consider it educated guessing...
We know the deities are very powerful, powerful enough that currently the game rules have no direct way to portray them. However, we also know they aren't all-powerful and/or all-knowing. As other resources have established, they can be killed. As you (TheWarriorPoet519) mentioned, their planes can be attacked! Thus they have to devote some of their power and resources to ensuring various raids by opposing forces don't get very far, lest said forces destroy or steal several relevant souls or otherwise damage the realm.
Therefore, I think it's reasonable to infer that the deities avoid direct interaction with various world situations because it might leave their realm vulnerable to a well timed attack. Imagine if Desna steps out of her region to take care of something on Golarion. It takes only a few minutes, but she comes back and finds Asmodeus has used this time to cut a huge swath through her take on the afterlife. Essentially, by stepping outside to protect a few hundred mortals... perhaps she ends up dooming thousands or millions of Chaotic Good souls to destruction/'abduction' by the devil god.
Whoops. I'm sure the various deities are aware of this possibility, and it's probably why they don't do it. I imagine the Good gods regularly feel kind of bad about it, but they also probably feel giving a little bit of their power to relevant Clerics/Paladins/Celestial Sorcerers/etc. to deal with said problem in their stead is an acceptable compromise solution.
Suddenly, we see why the PCs are relevant! It's better for a deity to invest 0.00000000000000000000001% of their power in a nearby mortal to handle the problem, than to deprive their realm of 100% of the deity's power for even a few minutes.
Marc Radle wrote:
So, how about the BIG question ... How was the movie???
Star Trucks was pretty good. My favorite scene was the part where Captain Skywalker stepped onto the bridge of the Millennium Firefly and set his phasers to lightsaber. His first mate, Zoe Sulu, said they aim to stun. That scene definitely made the movie!
Nah, I'm just messing with you. More seriously, it's a goodt sci-fi film mixing action with morality debate. A lot of the 'exploration' aspect one might normally attribute to Star Trek is diminished, but not absent. Instead it combines Star Trek's usual flair for delving into a social issue (under a cover of this happening in a futuristic society) with lots of exciting (and sometimes creative) fights and chases.
It's perhaps not as cerebral as some previous Star Trek fare, but it's a valid addition to the franchise and I enjoyed it.
Kvantum, while I can appreciate your ire and that you value punctuality... I'm not sure comparing Paizo to 'Big Oil' is fair.
Paizo is in a luxury industry, producing codified tools for helping others produce collaborative fantasy fiction with an underlying game system. If they miss a shipment by a few hours (or a business day, thus), the net effect on the world is a 1 to 3 day delay (depending on if the delay bordered a weekend) in letting people produce happy fantasy fun time tabletop gaming with some new game material a team of developers came up with.
If big oil misses a shipment, a gas station could go without fuel. An airplane could be forced to stay on the ground. Groceries might not get delivered to a store. I'm sure their production/distribution network has some fault tolerance built in, but it still represents a real impact on the world if too many delays happen. Small wonder that huge oil corporations are very demanding upon you to be prompt and accurate.
The folks at Paizo can go watch their Star Trucks or whatever it's called; the world will still be here and be intact 2-3 hours later, or even a business day later, despite their absence. I went to see that same film recently and it was fairly good; I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.
You could just as well play a "really dumb" character if that's what you feel works for you, though. Maybe his social skills leave something to be desired, and people think he's "dumb" simply because of that.
That's one good way to interpret it. I like it, though I did wish to offer another possibility; triangulating based on known NPCs. The Bestiary lists offer details on a variety of creatures at several different Intelligence scores, and we can expand upon that by then checking their Wis, Cha, and Alignment.
Int 1 or 2 is Animal intelligence. Only the most extraordinary among them have a capacity for what we'd vaguely accept as 'culture.' They know fighting tactics, footwork, timing... but not much else outside of said hunting and cooperation. Any intelligence expressed beyond that tends to be induced by domestication (a dog saving a kid from a house-fire because it recognizes the kid as family, for example).
Int 4 is where we find most of the Elementals. They have a capacity for language, but operate primarily in simple ideas relevant to the concepts they embody (usually "power", "respects power", and "wants to spread a concept related to the element they represent"). They're simultaneously children and unswerving zealots insofar as we understand their thought process. Getting them to think outside their box is really hard and requires very precise use of their language.
Int 6 is Lantern Archons, which are described as friendly showing some understanding of society, cause-effect, and so on. They display hobbies (changing their light in sync with music nearby), make requests of adventurers that fit a philosophy (for example, their Planar Binding/Ally process involves them asking the PCs to do a week of charity work or donate 100 GP to a Good-aligned church... it knows full well this request advances Good agendas), and show bravery in their fight against Evil. Lantern Archons are probably child intelligence too, but at the higher end of it; any smarter and they could more or less pass for a human teen (albeit one with obvious zealotry for building an orderly yet benevolent society) if you were only hearing their speech.
Int 10 is average human. This bears no further elaboration.
Alignment can also influence how a creature expresses their Intelligence, too. The Lantern Archon example is an obvious one, and I used it to scale how my Int 8, Wis 7, Cha 15 Paladin would behave. Using the 'NPC triangulation' method mentioned above I surmised that they're slightly dull-witted and they latch onto weird ideas at times... but they can hold normal conversations just fine provided you don't get scholarly on them. With the Archons and other usually/always LG creatures to compare to, it wasn't hard to extrapolate mental stats of 8/7/15 to mean something like "A bit of an airhead, but this Paladin functions just fine in normal society on a day to day basis. Despite being slightly dumb, they are openly and inspiringly sincere in their love of said society. This goes a long way in smoothing over any problems caused by occasionally asking stupid questions."
This topic seems to have wandered some (albeit in interesting and possibly useful ways to GMs), so I just wanted to offer a player's context on Runelords, specifically book 1's fights.
Presuming you're playing the current and updated version, these should be winnable with a smart team that works well together and has the flexibility to meet a variety of challenges. There are one or two fights that will wreck up a party consisting solely of "two-handed weapon, power attack all day er'ry day, what is a ranged weapon!?" characters, but in general you can meet most challenges with good formations, timing, and so on.
That said, Runelords book 1's encounters can become a lot more vicious if the players and/or their characters refuse to have any tactical nuance. If your party just plows headlong into any threat before them, no matter how obvious an ambush/trap it is... there are fights where it's going to be very hard! Even the damned goblins aren't complete morons (just mostly so), and there are locations where they have set up very smart defenses.
If the PCs heedlessly smash into said defenses over and over again, then they're going to get killed unless they're lucky or have some incredibly strong tactical players to make up for the strategical blunders.
I'll repeat for emphasis: Even the goblins in Runelords can set up vicious situations if the PCs just rush right into their schemes.
Should Runelords be a meat-grinder? Probably not. Will it become one if bad luck and/or really bad strategical or tactical choices keep being made? Absolutely. A lot of Runelords encounters I've seen so far are ones that have some way to avoid their nastiest aspects... you just have to go around them for once.
I'll admit part of why I'd like to see these variants exist is to take a direct swipe at the often implied notion that LG is the 'superior' form of Good. One sees it in a lot of material, especially older/non-PF material.
Let's rework the Paladin's code to not cause a million "should this Paladin fall?" threads. Let's give the other alignments some exemplars equal in standing to them. These are things I'd like to see. I actually wish they'd reverse the alignment noun order to do Moral ethos first, THEN Social. Good Chaotic. Good Neutral. Good Lawful. Emphasizing Good over a social ethos. It's relatively minor semantics, but I'd still like to have that happen.
I'd like to offer some thoughts on various things that have come up.
Pathfinder Society before other concerns: It's interesting to note that even many faction leaders don't feel this way. Ollysta of the Silver Crusade is an obvious example... she sees the Society as a tool/means for her own benevolent agenda. Perhaps in more idealistic terms than 'tool or means' (she is a Paladin of the Goddess of Honesty, after all; I suspect she is not much of a 'schemer' thus)... but it's clear she sees the world as Silver Crusade first, then the Society. She probably follows the Cooperate tenet as far as she can, but the impression I get is even the leaders have other motives and do not view the Society's goals as an ultimate concern.
How that impacts any resolution of this topic, I'm not immediately sure. Still, it adds some fascinating context and seemed like it was worth sharing.
Regarding Paladins: While there is an onus on the Paladin's player to present them as reasonably cooperative and sensible, I do want to note it's no real surprise when their players get either defensive or have their character become confrontational. Think about it; we have tons of "Should this Paladin Fall for Reason X, Y, or Z?" threads on these forums. I can see them being really cautious about avoiding a Fall in light of this.
Can you envision a situation in which an overzealous GM tells the Paladin's player, "Your Paladin is cooperating with undead. Fall."? Can you envision that being a headache the Paladin's player really wants to avoid since appealing it would require escalation to PFS game staff (be it Venture officers or Mike Brock or whoever it ends up going to)?
I can. Same deal for Pharasmite Clerics and similar characters. If we want their players and/or characters to be more cooperative, it might help a lot to lay out an explicit safety net in the rules so they don't have to worry about juggling 'cooperation' alongside 'not gutting my character's concept and/or abilities.'
Regarding BigNorseWolf's advice of a flowchart of responses: It's a nice idea, and I think in general it helps. However, I will note I did something similar in a campaign a while back with a disruptive character (I'll spare the details, but imagine every terrible thing possible; they probably did it) and at some point the flowchart of compromising responses just wasn't helping; he was still a punk.
I would thus add at the bottom to any such list a response possibility of: "Other character and/or their player is genuinely going too far even within the PFS concept of insisting others Cooperate with them. Dig in heels, stand ground." At some point, yielding and compromise must become two way streets in order to work.
With the sheer number of threads asking for input on whether a specific Paladin should 'fall' or not, I thought it might help to offer some context to Players and GMs about what a Paladin is and define their position in the forces of Good. The odd truth one has to face is that a Paladin is an elevated mortal... but still mortal, and thus imperfect. Even the gods of the Golarion setting are imperfect. This means one must judge a Paladin based on their station compared to peers 'below', equal to, and 'above' them. I think it's helpful to consider this a 'Hierarchy of Good.'
What is this Hierarchy? It doesn't strictly exist in game mechanics or Golarion lore, but we can infer its existence through things like Aura of Good, aligned outsiders, and so on. Simply put, it is a theory that creatures can share an alignment yet be of different 'degrees of authority or elevation' within it. The most obvious example is comparing a Level 1 Lawful Good Human Commoner to a Level 1 Lawful Good Human Paladin, though you could do an extreme comparison of either of them compared to their Deity.
If you use Detect Good on them, the Commoner will not 'appear' on the detection even though his soul is acknowledged by divine nature to be kind, trustworthy, and overall a wonderful person whose eternal reward will be in either a LG-aligned plane or his deity's plane. The Paladin however will trigger, because his Good nature is more pronounced; he has a spark of divinity within him that makes him 'higher ranked' than the Commoner. Obviously, you know this part... but the problem lies in not taking it to the next level. There are creatures above the Paladin in the hierarchy, and none of them are Perfect Good either! Consider various celestial creatures, and realize most of them 'outrank' the Paladin yet might do un-Paladinlike things too.
Thus I think it's a good idea to start asking how a Paladin's deity would judge those equal, above, and below them for the same action. Would their deity cast out the Commoner for that action? If so, then obviously the Paladin should get in trouble too. Would their deity punish a Hound Archon (a creature who literally embodies the concepts of benevolence through order, represented by the Lawful Good alignment, yet still isn't Perfect) for it? If yes, then the Paladin is likewise in trouble. Would the Archon be let off with a warning because it couldn't have possibly foreseen the consequences, or because its nature or pressing circumstances gave it a decent justification for the action? Then the Paladin should probably be given the benefit of the doubt too. Even Good deities sometimes do questionable things, due to their not being all-knowing or all-powerful. You can even compare the Paladin to peers such as matching Clerics to see if a 'Fall' makes sense.
Obviously this does not mean that you excuse gross negligence or willful cruelty. A Paladin is someone who has agreed to be a shining symbol of virtue, as best as a mortal can manage; they need to be Very Good! This means special powers and a 'mark of divine approval' in return for elevating their actions to a higher standard, but their superiors are also imperfect... so it's not fair to expect perfection of an 'elevated mortal' either.
I would like to propose that the above standard be one of the first things GMs and Players apply to evaluating a Paladin's situation... and only if their peers within a few steps of them in the 'Hierarchy of Good' would similarly be harshly punished should “Does this Paladin fall?” be asked. If nothing else, it would certainly cut down on a lot of repeat threads and might save some headaches for everyone.
Sure. You're right, those things can be problematic in a fight. I said as much: "It's true not all of these (or in some cases, ANY of these) are appropriate for all characters. They're just very basic examples." (emphasis mine, upon my own text)
If you're looking at wholly realistic designs, some of the aspects I've suggested will indeed hit upon "Uhh, that... wouldn't really fly all that well in a real fight." Okie-dokey. Conceded. Conceded it before anyone pointed it out.
The point I was trying to establish is that 'breast-emphasizing' armor seems incredibly unnecessary in almost every regard. There are other artistic ways to indicate gender, and I would hope to see more fantasy imagery explore this instead of using said absurd armor designs as a rather widespread shortcut for the matter.
"Female disguised as male in the army" would be a valid reason to not use such cues. Gender disguising for assassination purposes would be another good reason. I wasn't saying "every female adventurer should have these cues"; there are obvious reasons why they might not want to. I was saying they're basic examples of how one might tastefully tackle this topic so without falling victim to the 'organ shattering' armor design decried in the article linked by Nihimon.
None of this was meant to be discriminatory or imply stereotypes must be followed. I apologize if it came across that way; it was only meant as an extremely simple example to prove that gender can be determined in other ways in art/character design if making it obvious to the viewer is a priority. For some players, it might not be. That's fine.
Summon Monster I.
No, I'm serious.
Stop laughing at me!
Summon Monster I is underrated, because it's really hard to fit into a build. Sorcs and Wizards (among others) have no use for it at level 1 because the creature won't stick around long enough to be any better than a guaranteed-to-hit Magic Missile would... unless you find a way to get +1 Caster Level going on it. The "Force for Good" trait can help with this.
If you can get it going in conjunction with Augment Summoning at an early enough level, then it's a genuinely playable spell. Eagles, Dogs, and Dolphins are legitimate threats against the things you'll be running into at levels 1 and 2, still okay at level 3, and at least vaguely relevant at level 4 (by which time even Sorcs can pick up Summon Monster II); at the very least they're a cheap way to get a flanking bonus set up.
If the summoned animal has an Alignment (for example, it's brought in by an effect that causes it to have the same alignment as its caller)... then despite its Intelligence 2 there's a decent chance that "acting in accord with its general nature" might yield nice things. I've seen GMs be receptive to ideas like using a Celestial Dolphin to retrieve a drowning ally due to the dolphin having a Good alignment, for example! Provided it has sufficient duration and the GM agrees, they might bring said ally back above-water and drop them off at the nearest patch of dry land.
Not all GMs will go for it, but most of the ones I've played under allow this sort of thing so long as it doesn't go too far into implausible territory. So you get a passable combat skill, flank enabler, and a (where relevant) Alignment-influenced animal. One supposes Fiendish versions could do some pretty hilarious (read: mean) things to people instead if it doesn't run contrary to the summoner's interest.
This appears to be a long-running thread, and I can't offer many solutions... but I did want to speak up as a new player (I have less than ten games in, easily, despite letting my imagination run wild and creating about a half-dozen PFS legal characters for if I ever need them).
So far, most of you have been posting on an "assume good faith" basis and I really appreciate that! It's nice to see that most of the GMs and PFS staff I may be interacting with aren't huddling up in preparation for a witch hunt, and they expect that most errors will be minor and unintentional. Most of you have been pursuing constructive solutions to the problem instead, and this is a good thing.
It's very reassuring. I'm doing my best to ensure my batch of new PFS characters are all 100% legal/accurate; I even try to track their purchases down to the last copper piece in the hopes this sort of thing won't even come up. Yet it's very comforting to know that if I've slipped up somewhere, the response is most likely going to be "What, you were off by +1 on a skill check, or off by 7 GP? I'm going to on-the-spot adjust that to keep the table going, and afterward I'd like to have someone sit down with you and figure out the exact correct value. Don't worry, we're not setting you on fire and/or banning you from PFS play for a small error like that... just try to be more precise in the future, okay?"
I'd rather play in a game environment that promotes understanding and good faith than one driven by fear, and I'm getting a very positive impression from this thread. Thank you!
This has been quite the explosive topic... and I wanted to add some real world context. awp832 and a few other posters have already provided it, so this is more 'elaborating on a source.'
Simply put, while animals are Int 1 or Int 2... you'd be surprised how capable they are in combat. They know how to fight and fight well. They have to; they die if they don't (well, excepting non-combatant animals like many small birds and such; let's leave them aside for now)! They know footwork, timing, attacking from favorable angles, and so on.
It's possible they may not understand target priority quite as well as people do, but you only need to watch a few nature documentaries to see animals know about things in combat that we would parse as "5' steps", "flanking", and so on in Pathfinder.
Animals showing basic combat tactics is not a bad, unexpected, or unrealistic thing in Pathfinder. It even works both ways; a PC's summoned animals will show competent maneuvering in battle as well!
Foreword: Please DON'T quote this entire post if you have something to respond to. It's just not a good idea with an opening post this size.
Champions of Purity introduced the Summon Good Monster feat, which expands the Summon Monster list to have a variety of new holy-themed creatures and grants Diehard to many (not all, but many) of them as well as some already available summons. This post is meant to promote analysis and discussion of the new options. It is not comprehensive, as I do not feel I have enough experience in high level play to gauge the summons from those lists and this will be long enough as it is. Each section will be divided into three sections. 'Negative RAW' will discuss how the list is affected if one uses the 'negative' interpretation of summons disappearing at 0 HP and thus making Diehard not work at all. 'RAI' assumes Diehard works for them, and points out how certain existing monsters particularly benefit from it. 'General' discusses each new creature in detail, then a short conclusion leads us to the next summon list/section.
I want this to be a good discussion, and I'm probably not an all-knowing authority on our PCs' new allies. So feel free to chime in with different interpretations, corrections, and general opinions! With that said, let's begin with how I feel about Summon Monster I through IV under this feat.
Summon Monster I
Important: Despite how it looks, you're not getting Diehard for the entire existing SM1 list. Only six of the eight do, as Dire Rat and Poisonous Frog are left off the list. This is not a huge loss as you were unlikely to use either of them outside very unusual corner cases anyway.
Negative RAW: The feat actually does nothing for Summon Monster I at all in this case, because it only grants Diehard to an otherwise unexpanded list.
RAI: Summon Monster I normally suffers from being hard to use; it's basically useless at caster level 1 unless you find a way to get +1 to caster level, so the summon won't even stick around long enough to do much. Not all casters can conveniently pick it up at caster/class level 2. It starts to be obsolete by level 3, and is almost completely outclassed by level 4. How do you fix that?
Adding Diehard to most of them helps significantly. Your main fighters are Dogs, Eagles, and Dolphins (water only); they can now hang on a little longer and remain relevant against foes that would otherwise be killing them in one shot by level 3-ish. The Pony becomes a decent tank at this point as well, provided enemies are willing to spend time fighting it (they're not a huge threat, admittedly). Everything else gains no serious benefit from the extra durability and were niche-case summons anyway; that doesn't change.
It's a little sad you're not getting any new creatures here, but that's not too bad. If you play by RAI, the existing choices gain enough durability to remain meaningful (not great, but not terrible either) until you can pick up the next spell in the series.
General: Nothing of note; this list's benefits entirely rely on whether you're going by 'negative RAW' interpretations, or RAI.
Summon Monster II
Negative RAW: Under this interpretation, you only gain three new summons of note but they're actually good ones. A little fragile, and none of them are good brawlers, but they all offer something useful.
RAI: Going this route has some interesting balance implications in that two of your existing summons get some nice upgrades. They are...
Octopus: The extra durability gives this creature options as a watery tank, in contrast to the more aggressive Squid. It was already a decent choice, but now it's a genuinely strong contender in water combat for its level.
Wolf: Is rescued from obsolescence. Normally inferior to the Hyena in almost every way, you now have your choice of a little more offense (Hyena) or notably more staying power (Wolf with Diehard). This has the odd side effect of making the Horse less valuable in the tanking role, but the Horse retaining its Large size means they now serve different functions.
General: We get three new options that are not good direct fighters, but offer special abilities well worth considering.
Faun: A well-rounded choice, the Faun fills multiple roles capably but not superbly. It's an okay melee fighter, and at the lower end of acceptability for an archer. Ghost Sound is a useful spell when employed creatively, and Hideous Laughter can shut an opponent's offense down for a few rounds. The Panpipes will bring their DCs up to acceptable totals, too. Sleep is sadly starting to become obsolete by the time you get access to Fauns, but considering its other spell-like abilities are fine this isn't a problem.
It speaks Common and Sylvan, and combined with its nature as a bipedal creature with functional hands you can have it do various things (“go open that door for us”, for a basic example). This is true of some Elementals too, but the Faun's higher Intelligence means it can understand a wider range of ideas and exercise some personal judgement on your orders if need be.
This leaves you with a summon that is rarely the best choice for a situation, but is also rarely the wrong choice; it's a safe pick if you're expecting a variety of problems within the next few rounds.
Grig: The loss of its Fiddle ability seems like it would seriously hurt this summon, but it's still a very good choice for clever players. It's tiny and can fly, plus it has a ranged attack (which does 1d4-1 with Augment benefits). This alone would make the Grig worth playing, as you could have it to fly into unusual locations and 'plink' at enemies. 1d4-1 is not exactly high damage, but most enemies will move to another area if they can't fire back on the Grig. They might even pursue it back to your party, allowing you to fight at a place of your choosing. This is something melee oriented summons can't do because entrenched foes will just pound on it and remain in place. The Faun is also capable of this 'plink lure' tactic, but its larger size and lack of flight makes it less suited to the task.
But wait, there's more! The Grig also has Disguise Self and Invisibility, which lend it to some use as a very short-duration scout or a mobile improvised version of a 'ghost sound' (granted, it's limited to noises a Grig could naturally make while speaking). The DCs on its Entangle and Pyrotechnics are slightly low and require situational terrain to make full use of, but they're still strong options to have.
On top of this, the Grig speaks Common and Sylvan. In conjunction with its decent Intelligence and nature, a Grig can be counted on to show some initiative if its summoner doesn't give specific orders. Their tiny size and low strength means they can't do all that much to influence the physical world around them, but that's a role covered better by other summons anyway.
These factors make the Grig a surprisingly good choice. It doesn't do much damage, but it can disrupt the enemy's plans in ways few other summons of its level can.
Pseudodragon: A special-purpose summon, the Pseudodragon's benefits lie in its flight and its 5 foot reach tail that has Sleep poison. Enemies that know about the poison will 'respect' it and tread carefully (which is fine for your purposes), while those who don't may just blunder into it and find themselves unconscious (which really suits your purposes!). The reach means it also serves as a decent flanking partner since it now has a threat range, and the Diehard feat means it can easily take a hit. They're very Stealthy (+19 in most terrain, +23 in forests!) as well, though the Grig may be better at scouting due to having Invisibility.
It's fairly mobile in the air, so one fun thing to do would be to send it up after flying enemies and Sleep poison them. If they fail the save... well, what happens to something that falls unconscious in mid-air? That's right: Gravity. Ker-splat!
Pseudodragons primarily communicate via telepathy. Expect some table variation on how this behaves, but favorable interpretations of the wording allow it to overcome the language barrier (it otherwise only knows Draconic) and communicate with its summoner just fine.
Overall: Summon Monster II was worth casting as-is. The upgrades it provides to the Octopus and Wolf expand your options, and all three new creatures offer something worthwhile. The Faun and Grig are generally better than the Pseudodragon, but the latter's value in flanking and 'anti-air' roles are worth keeping in mind.
Summon Monster III
Negative RAW: Doesn't hurt this list nearly as much as you might think. Most of its inclusions are special-purpose to begin with, and remain worthwhile in their niches even if they don't get Diehard.
RAI: Two existing summon options are modified by giving them Diehard, and covered below.
Lantern Archon: An effective summon already, letting them stick around after falling to 0 HP just makes them even more annoying to enemies. Much like the Grig, the Lantern Archon's flight lets it go into places and pester opponents which may force them to move if they're not fond of continuing to eat 1d6-damage light beams. This upgrade was hardly even necessary, but is certainly welcome.
Shark: Previously an aquatic summon whose only virtues were an above-average Swim speed and Large size, adding Diehard also makes them a passable tank. This makes them the better choice if your goal is merely to buy time and consume battlefield space, though the other aquatics in this level (and there are several) are better at dealing damage.
General: Four new choices are available, most of which fill special 'tool' purposes or are sidegrades to existing options.
Blink Dog: Unintentionally underwhelming, because of one major caveat to Summon spells... summoned creatures cannot use Teleport effects, and Dimension Door falls into this category! Without that, you are left with a creature whose only options are an underwhelming melee attack and a constant Blink spell on themselves... which most enemies will not care about because wasting time fighting a weak Blink Dog. Only in the somewhat uncommon situation where an enemy will fight anything put before it is this worthwhile, as the Blink effect can make them incredibly frustrating to take down before their summon duration expires.
They speak Sylvan (and despite being 'dogs', they do indeed speak) only. This might have some unusual uses, but nothing obviously and immediately comes to mind.
Overall, the Blink Dog seems like a near-pointless addition to the list. It would have been an unusual choice for Summon II, and in Summon III it appears to be outclassed by nearly everything. Am I missing something here?
Foo Dog: Some GMs might bar them due to their Asian themes (on the same grounds they might ban Samurai, Ninja, etc.) but I'm going to presume this isn't a problem in your game.
Notably slower than the name 'Dog' might suggest, they move at Speed 30 yet are otherwise a modest upgrade from the previous level's Hyena. Their bite attack only does so-so damage, but has a Trip effect attached to it and the CMB is slightly better than the Hyena's. Their ability to look like a statue could have some useful ambush prospects, though their Stealth check is fairly low.
Foo Dogs have a variety of nice defensive options, including Stony Defense (gaining Hardness 8 for a turn) and a Protection from Evil amongst themselves if paired up with another Foo creature, which combined with their decent HP can make them passable tanks (and one enemies will take seriously, due to their potential to Trip).
However, it must be noted that the Foo Dog's damage output pales compared to most of its peers. Its single attack is nowhere near as strong as an Auroch's, and the full attacks on the Cheetah and Leopard quickly eclipse it as well. Worse, the Constrictor Snake and Crocodile are more likely to succeed on their special control options. The only real advantage is the Foo Dog speaks Celestial and Common with Intelligence 6, so you can give it specific orders (“Trip the elf!”, etc.) with ease compared to the aforementioned Animals since unlike D&D 3.5 they remain Intelligence 2 in Pathfinder and do not have a language.
Lyrakien Azata: While considered an excellent choice for Improved Familiar, these fairy-like creatures are still decent Summons if you communicate with them. No one option they offer is particularly good, but they have so many choices open that you're sure to find something useful for them to do. Ventriloquism and Silent Image can be used to mess up how enemies perceive the situation, and Cure Light Wounds may not be an efficient use of a third level summon but it's there if you absolutely need it. Commune is not an option for most casters, as it takes ten minutes to prepare and the Lyrakien will likely be gone by then. Traveler's Friend might work if done by higher level casters, but the one minute performance time is otherwise too short.
Their Starlight Blast is a low damage burst, but might help a little bit against swarms. Then again, by the time you can cast Summon Monster III you likely have better anti-swarm options available. This in conjunction with Detect Evil can make them decent alignment checkers, which is good since they're certainly not much in a fight.
Other benefits include a variety of languages (including Truespeech abilities), decent Social skills such as Diplomacy, and a +8 on 'any one' Knowledge skill (which one that might be is best discussed with your GM ahead of time).
Overall, the Lyrakien is a grab-bag of random tricks. It has a weak AOE, one Cure Light Wounds, some decent Skills, and is very mobile. Its illusions are also nice. Getting full use out of a Lyrakien requires very unusual situations and creativity in what orders you give to them, but they have their place... it's simply not 'in the thick of fighting.'
Silvanshee Agathion: Another collection of random abilities, this holy cat can help out in several subtle ways. While its Dimension Door doesn't work (see Blink Dog above), it could act as a flying emergency medic due to its unlimited uses of Stabilize plus a single 1d6 use of Lay on Hands. Silvanshees can also offer a +1 luck bonus on saves to one other creature that will last for ten minutes, which isn't huge but if you have nothing else for them to do then you might as well. They have decent Perception modifiers and +5 on some Knowledge checks... not great, but it is one more ability they have among many others.
Spectral Mist is a particularly good version of Gaseous Form, and combined with their +19 on Stealth they make fine scouts. Please note that Augment Summoning and Heroic Strength both grant Enhancement bonuses to Strength, so they don't stack. This leaves the Silvanshee as a pretty underwhelming brawler, so don't use it as one unless the situation is desperate.
Silvanshees speak Celestial, Draconic, Infernal and have Truespeech, but they have one other very interesting benefit; a constant Speak with Animals effect. This means you could summon several animals and a Silvanshee, and have the latter relay your orders to the former. Said orders will have to be fairly simple given the animals remain Intelligence 2, but this is one way to command them to do specific tasks.
Emergency medics, scouts, and animal translators... Silvanshee are ultimately not much of a combat summon, but they have their uses.
Overall: Summon Monster III is already considered a great Summon spell and this just makes it better. Upgrading the shark and Lantern Archon is a fine benefit, and clever summoners will find good uses for the other creatures. Most of them are not efficient fighters, but they have so many special abilities that you're sure to come up with something worthwhile for them to do!
Summon Monster IV
An already large summoning list with few meaningful gaps gains several flying creatures, some of which are spellcasters. The ones that can't cast spells are instead Large creatures with decent melee attacks, making them incredible flankers and space-takers. A few of your existing summons get an upgrade as well.
Negative RAW: The only serious downside here is that your brawlers won't be as durable. This is unfortunate, but most of the existing ones were playable as-is so it is hardly a deal-breaker.
RAI: Offers upgrades to two existing choices...
Dire Wolf: Essentially the next step in the line of Trip attackers, adding Diehard makes it acceptable as a tank. However, it must compete with the Foo Lion, regular Lion, and other options as an overall combatant... most of which are better than it at this job and several of them offer similar 'control' options as well. The Dire Wolf is thus only useful within a specific niche, but this is better than being generally bland and nearly pointless as it was before.
Hound Archon: I'm not really sure why it got this upgrade, as a Diehard-less Hound Archon is still a very good melee fighter and offers some nice spells such as a constant Magic Circle Against Evil. Adding that feat just makes it even better.
General: Your new options are a lot of fun! You get some effective melee fighters, including a few that are high-speed Large fliers; this is particularly nice since they can set up flanking for two of your allies with ease. The ones who don't fit into either of these categories can still do some very interesting tricks.
Celestial Giant Eagle: An excellent flying attacker, it is less durable than the pterosaur but much faster and has three attacks instead of one (though admittedly the pterosaur has 10 ft. Reach on its attack, which is somewhat useful). The giant eagle even has Evasion, and understands (cannot speak) Auran at Intelligence 10 so you can give it detailed orders. Do note the 4 hit die mean this eagle does not gain some of the Celestial benefits its 5 HD peers get, but this is not too big a problem.
As a pure fighter, the giant eagle is also superior to the Giant Wasp though the latter does offer a decent Poison effect. The Medium Lightning Elemental and Medium Air Elemental have useful abilities that can make them better against specific types of foe, but the giant eagle is better in most fights overall.
If summoned in sufficient quantities, giant eagles allow you to make Gandalf jokes! This is always a good thing.
Celestial Pegasus: The good news is this summon option does not cause me to appear at your gaming table! The even better news is it instead brings in an incredibly fast aerial melee creature. Where the giant eagle flies at 80 feet (average), the Pegasus has a flight speed of 120 (average). This means that they can effectively pursue and overtake a lot of things, and they're durable enough to put up a decent fight once they do. Since they understand (but cannot speak) Common at Intelligence 10, you can give them complicated instructions and put them to use pursuing specific targets. Their higher speed also makes it even easier for them to help your allies flank someone.
While a little weak in melee, they're still decent enough that they must be taken seriously by whoever they're attacking and Smite Evil can help even the odds (though Giant Eagles can do this trick too). Beyond that, the only obvious thing Pegasi contribute is a constant Detect Evil and Detect Good.
Faerie Dragon: Seemingly purpose-built to annoy the hell out of its enemies, the Faerie Dragon is a poor fighter but hard to retaliate against due to its self-only Greater Invisibility. Toss in relatively low DC abilities like an euphoria breath weapon and Grease and while it's unlikely to succeed at any given use... it has enough shots that eventually something will get through. Not only that, but Grease has some use even if the opponents make their saves. In addition, Silent Image and Ghost Sound remain useful if you find clever ways to use them.
Do note that while they “cast as a Sorcerer”, you don't get to rebuild their spell list in most cases. This means what you see on their default sheet is usually what you get; this is particularly important to remember in PFS play. Other interesting tricks include having both Fly and Swim speeds, speaking four languages (Common, Draconic, Elven, and Sylvan) plus telepathy.
On its own, the Faerie Dragon is unlikely to win fights or even directly set up circumstances that will allow you to win. However, they have enough spells and breath weapon usages to be consistently extremely frustrating to deal with. If you want a prankster that can distract enemies or just blanket huge chunks of the battlefield in Grease, this is your choice.
Foo Lion: A significant improvement over the niche-use Foo Dog, this summon might actually be better than conventional lions. The Foo version has more HP and is about as good at hitting and dealing damage, while offering most of the same special attack options a regular lion does. Toss in the same defensive options that a Foo Dog has, and Reach 10 ft... and suddenly the only obvious way for a Celestial (regular) Lion to keep up would be to use Smite Evil.
Like the Foo Dog, this creature understands Celestial and Common plus has a passable Intelligence score of 6. Very complex plans may elude it, but anything you'd expect a Good-aligned human child to understand is probably within the Foo Lion's capacity as well. This means you can tell it where to go and which targets to focus on, which is a fine advantage over Celestial Animals.
The Foo Lion is a very efficient melee fighter and unless you have balance concerns about using them (are they too powerful for Summon Monster IV? I worry that they might be) or your GM has problems with Asian content then they are probably one of the best things this feat grants.
Pixie: Another 'flying fairy' choice, though this one offers some interesting benefits. First, it is Small and thus can provide flanking in some cases. That might not be the best idea given its underwhelming melee, but this is an option.
What's probably a better choice is to make use of its constant invisibility to let it pester enemies with arrows and foil an ambush in this way. Of course, by this level they might have means of firing back on it. If archery is impractical then you can still make use of its Use Magic Device skill (just remember to have it return items to you before its summoning duration ends, or the items will likely fall to the ground where the pixie disappeared at) or Knowledge Nature checks.
It also has a surprisingly good spell list, ranging from a full suite of alignment detections (constant) to Entangle, Dispel Magic, and even Permanent Image (though it might not be so Permanent once they leave!). They speak Common and Sylvan, so it's easy to give them orders... and Intelligence 16 means they're probably clever enough to come up with some nice plans on their own if you don't tell them what to do.
The DCs on its special arrows are fairly low, but when there's no real risk to using them you may as well. Effects include equivalents to Charm Monster, Modify Memory/Memory Loss, and Sleep. Most of these can rapidly turn a situation around, so even a low chance of success is worth a try.
Overall: Easily the most improved set of the first four Summon Monster lists, this spell's expanded options allow you to pick the exact right melee creature (in your choice of Medium, Large, Flying, or non-flying varities!) and several decent spellcasters. You even pick up a few ranged attackers, so there is a summon for nearly every situation here.
Summon Good Monster is a very strong feat with a lot of flavor to it. It remains a great feat even under strict-negative interpretations of RAW that make Diehard non-functional, and adding it just makes several nice summons more durable. I think it's worth trying to fit into summoning-centric builds around character levels 3, 5, or even 7 at the latest. Almost every list becomes significantly better with this feat, so it's worth getting as soon as possible (though it shouldn't be your Level 1 feat, since Augment Summoning is better overall).
I'm not comfortable discussing things in Summon Monster V and above due to my lack of experience in high level play, but you're welcome to do so! Ideally, this thread can serve as a discussion for several good ideas on the new summon options rather than just being a static 'guide.'
Sure thing, Adam! I only have one request... no, two requests, in any case. Neither is particularly serious, but I hope you'll get a chuckle out of them anyway. They are:
Mostly because I want to see the teeth-gnashing by miniatures companies wondering how in the hell they're going to make a profit from producing those. And the look on the players' face when the GM pulls one out. Or the look on the GM's face when a PC summons one.
Basically I think the Bestiary series is best when used to induce heart attacks.
Darigaaz the Igniter wrote:
I challenge you to a duel, of CHILDRENS TRADING CARDS!
Anyway, more seriously: Don't we see this come up with non-goblins too? Aren't there adventures where the PCs go take out the evil leader and assume control of his nation, and because they really do rule it fairly and kindly it's a Good act?
Seems like the same thing here, just with icky-looking balloon-headed quasi-savages. I see no particular problem with the general goal/action as outlined. Certain details might turn it evil, but as-is this seems like a noun-swap of stuff we've seen before and it was perfectly fine then.
Since we're piling on with examples... basically, what a lot of us are trying to convey is that the Bardic Performances can cover the full range. You don't like the militarized general shouting at their troops? Me either! That's why when I play bards, they eventually pick up a variety of methods to do this and I pick which one seems best.
Does the group need silence while they work? Dancing.
Is it a small group of rag tag rebels? One of my bards works as a motivational speaker urging others to embrace benevolent freedom as a path to self-improvement (e.g. Chaotic Good). It's like having a talk show radio host accompany you, except they know when to shut up and can actually back up their big mouth in any event.
Or perhaps what they need is someone to mock and parody their enemies, belittling them to make the party feel superior. Comedy!
Maybe there's a classic tale that illustrates an important moral to the party. Storytelling!
Music has also been cited. All of these can work. Militarized, artsy, smooth talking, dancing... a good performer should have a background in most of these styles and more, and will pick whichever one is most appropriate at the time. Even while the party needs to be quiet. Even while the Bard is fighting. There are tons of options.
That is a good point, shallowsoul, and it's why I'd be willing to hear significant wriggle room on the actual killing itself being any alignment. Depending on the evidence the PCs saw in their limited time there, it's possible they might reasonably conclude Drow are inherently evil in the same way Evil Outsiders and Undead generally are. Or maybe they don't have enough data to reach that conclusion and it becomes Evil on its face (one does not kill something they can't reasonably conclusively identify, after all).
Quick Edit: That said it's ultimately academic in this case, because the method with which the killing was carried out is just straight-up needlessly brutal and cruel. It's a tactic I would expect out of characters who genuinely enjoy seeing others suffer, who would get a dark laugh out of that moment when the betrayal and pain set in. It falls squarely into Evil territory due to that on its own, in my opinion.
I'd like to offer a few opinions on the playing up debate thus far.
I have done it twice... or rather, definitely done it once and was prepared to do so a second time (but it got called off for scheduling reasons). So far I have about 3 or 4 PFS games in.
In the first case, it was because the group was already slated to play in that tier anyway but they were being nice in letting me tag along. My character still contributed some useful things to the story and the party's success. Took some risks too, so while I figure I 'earned' the extra rewards for them... I would not be upset if Paizo were to instead significantly reduce what I'd gotten due to ongoing WBL concerns. Getting extra rewards wasn't my concern; being able to play at all was. If I hadn't played up, I wouldn't have been able to play at all. Nobody bullied me into that, they agreed to let me get in on it at my own risk because I'd been unable to get into any other games at that point.
It worked out okay. It would have even worked out fine if my PC were given Level 1-2 rewards instead of the playing-up rewards they got. I just wanted to play, and playing up let me do so.
In the second instance, a friend asked me if I was willing to play so far up that none of my characters could currently use the resulting chronicle sheet; I'd have to use a pregen healing Cleric. Any other time I would have said 'no', but this friend has been rather good to me and they wanted some help getting their character set up right for upcoming faction-retirement adventures. Nonetheless, the prospect of playing up, and playing a "heal plz" for hours, with no practical reward (I don't get to play in tons of PFS games, so my level up rate is slow) while everyone else got cool stuff... ew. I was going in with the attitude that I was doing a MMORPG style grind without even the slightest reward.
Was willing to do it to help a friend (they didn't bully me into it, I agreed to the request because I like them), but I wasn't going to like it. It was either I step up to do that in order to make a legal table, or the session wasn't going to happen at all because they were a player short without me. Ultimately the session got canceled due to a schedule conflict, but this was otherwise how it was going to happen.
Whatever solution we come up with, I hope it acknowledges there are legitimate and benevolent reasons to want to play up. Both times I've done it so far were because either I personally wouldn't get to play otherwise, or nobody in the group was going to get to play. Those shouldn't be grounds for suspicion, absurdly delayed rewards, or reduced rewards/punishment. I don't need extra rewards for playing up, but I don't want to be punished or given nothing for it either.
I'm going to very briefly go off-topic, then back onto it. First:
Matthew Morris wrote:
I've found it adds tension and means the players can't metagame, "He's asking for perception, here it comes!"
Can I offer a potentially time-saving alternative, specifically for Perception? It's not my idea, merely one I've seen used to great effect at tables before. Specifically, asking players to roll Perception X number of times before the game and tell you the results. Alternatively, ask for their modifier and do the rolls yourself. You take these pre-rolled numbers and set them aside until needed... can even randomize the number they're applied in, to reduce further metagaming if you're concerned about that. You could even make sure that the number of rolls asked for (X) is greater than you'll actually be using. It also works for Initiative and similar rolls.
Back on topic, while I do not GM much I would like to offer a thought on this... it's pretty clear fudging is officially discouraged. Yet we also see some GMs want to reserve the option for extreme situations. Would it be okay if I offer a perspective primarily as a Player as to how I feel on that? If so, my stance generally ties into a few different criteria. If the player has only 1 or 2 games experience: Ask the following of yourself about them...
Are they playing intelligently? If their character was behaving stupidly, let 'em have what's coming to them. If not, punishing a new player for playing correctly and merely being unlucky is probably not the best idea.
Are they contributing to the table's positive experience? They may have tons of rules questions, but ask yourself whether they're being polite and making a genuine effort to learn the rules and do even a little roleplaying. If so, you want to keep them interested.
So long as both of these are true, fudging might be an option. However, communicate with the player afterward! Don't tell them you fudged. Instead, use this as a chance to educate. Tell them something like "Your PC came very close to death this adventure, and I wanted to let you know they're only going to get more difficult from here. You should look up precautions on how to protect against it; things like learning good party marching order, making sure the other characters know where your character keeps their Cure Potions so they can use it on your PC, and so on. Death can happen to your character and it's really hard to revive them, especially at lower levels. You did good for your first session, but remember to be more careful from here on."
This impresses a very important lesson on them, and does so without hurting their pride. It also means they won't rely on fudging as a crutch, and will learn how to play properly.
Yet what if they aren't a new player? In that case, the only situation I would advocate fudging is to make up for a GM's error or an error by the module writer. Did you or the author leave out a clue that would warn off the character from what otherwise seems like an intuitive thing to do? Or mis-apply a rule such that it seriously hurt the PC's situation? It seems fair to cushion the blow in these cases.
Things like "My character uses Detect Magic and checks for traps, then opens the door if it's clear." "They take 15 fire damage," "Why?" "Door was on fire." "...You didn't mention that." "Wait, I didn't?" "No. You just said it was a wooden door with intricate carving details on it. No mention of it burning." "...Okay. Well, I can't really 'take it back', but I can drop it to minimum damage. 6 Fire instead of 15, and if that dropped you into Dying then I'm not rolling for HP loss for the first round of it; someone go heal him and game on." - That seems reasonable.
A citation from Pathfinder's rules may help us: "Good implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others." It can generally be assumed that slavery is an affront to the dignity of a sentient being... it may be a severe one (the slavery conditions are cruel) or a minor one (their owner is very kind, understanding, reasonable, etc.), but it's still an affront to them.
Nonetheless, as James Jacobs' reply has shown us, Sarenrae is willing to compromise on dogma to prevent immediate harm. In fact, I would like to propose something that I feel would be Very Sarenite To Do in the situation Igorwolfgang is talking about.
The cleric might tolerate this new slave in their midst if there is no other safe way of dealing with the creature, because it gives the cleric a chance to non-violently and repeatedly share company with the enslaved creature. This could give the cleric a chance to share their faith and try to shape that creature's long-term behavior. Perhaps they'll even embrace Sarenrae's teachings, or find that another Good-aligned deity's faith suits them... or just becomes peaceful in general even without a divine tenet to it. Eventually circumstances will come along such that this new convert can be set free, and safely so. These are all outcomes that would cause the Dawnflower's faithful to feel warm and fuzzy inside once it comes to fruition.
Sure, this is using an Evil situation to do Good... but it's making the best of a raw hand dealt to the cleric in the first place. It's not his fault this came up, so he's just trying to do something constructive with it anyway.
Note that all of this assumes the enslaved creature is being treated tolerably. If his owner is beating him, starving him, etc... then that's when a Cleric of Sarenrae would likely start cutting a new deal with the Evil master in question. And by 'cutting a new deal', I mean 'scimitar them.'
I can easily see cases where a G-align character would do precisely that. It's certainly a frightening way to kill someone, but if he's on some CE-aligned plane of CE-ness where people are abducted for use as gladiator slaves... it's not much of a leap to imagine most (all?) of these guards are CE-align slavers who embody CE in some way or another, and getting rid of them isn't exactly a bad thing.
Which of course leads us to a funny thing; here I am saying torture is almost always evil (and probably useless in getting reliable intel/info), while offering a justification for burning enemies alive. Then again, Fireball isn't Evil and it basically does just that.
Isn't Alignment grand, folks?