Author Topic: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)  (Read 5694 times)

Offline Periaden

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The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« on: February 04, 2013, 11:37:13 AM »
Fear Handbook - Caedrus' Art of War, Volume I

Welcome to my Fear Handbook, hopefully one of a number of a series, I consider somewhat of a D&D 'Art of War'. Please feel free to add feedback and suggestions, and I will try to incorporate them. If you like what you see, let me know – donations of fu are of course, a courteous gesture. If this gets good feedback I will create a few more. There are always too many ideas. First, let me make an introduction:

“You have much to learn. I am Sonja. Caedrus asked me for my help. I will guide you. When you see this text, know that I am speaking to you.”


If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants – Sir Isaac Newton (sometimes accredited to Albert Einstein).

Again, I stand on the shoulders of giants. Some of the pieces of this Guide have been ported over from the CO Boards.

Dictum Mortuum (Demoralise as an area of study - great idea) in his Demoralisation Project.

Womble Hunter, BenSan, Callix, Burning Duck and Colm_L for their excellent contributions to Dictum Mortuum's intriguing thread;

JaronK made the wonderful suggestion of Scarlet Corsair, which has been used in Cromwell's creation.

NineInchNail provided excellent information, as did many contributors, in the Shadowcraft Mage Handbook for Nadia.


Snow Savant first came up with the Fear Factor, and this Handbook is created to provide some of the gentle, helpful advice Snow added to the CO Boards during her time there.



Buff: To increase the value of a tactically valuable aspect of a character. Example: Bull’s Strength.
Debuff: To decrease the value of a tactically valuable aspect of a character. Example: Ray of Enfeeblement.
Escalation: To improve an effect already in effect. Example: A shaken effect on a shaken character escalates the fear effect to frightened.
Control: To prohibit the tactical movement of an enemy. Example: Evard’s Black Tentacles.
Repel: To remove an enemy from the field of combat. Example: Night’s Caress.
Incapacitate: To remove all threat from an enemy. Example: Otto’s Irresistible Dance.
Trap: A common choice (often one which seems superficially appealing) which often is not the optimum choice. Example: Fireball.

              The Use of this Guide

Throughout this Guide, in deference to Dictum Mortuum’s Handbook Writing Guide, the following colours will help your travels through this guide:

Black Text indicates a neutral choice.
Red Text indicates a very poor choice.
Blue Text indicates a good choice.
Purple Text indicates an excellent choice.

This handbook is by Caedrus, I simply preserved his work here.

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 04:26:37 PM by Periaden »

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2013, 11:47:29 AM »
              Facts about Fear Effects

“What is fear? As wise men have said, fear is the mind killer.”

The following statements all assume that the most recent source (often the Rules Compendium) is the most correct.

All fear effects are mind-affecting fear effects (Rules Compendium, Pg 53). Note that this is not in full agreement with the Player’s Handbook, nor the D&D Glossary Definition.

Fear has stages—shaken, frightened, panicked, and cowering. Note that cowering cannot be escalated from panicked, but it can be caused by prohibiting a panicked enemy from escaping.

The use of a fear aura, which is a supernatural ability, is a free action. A fear aura is an area effect. A fear aura affects only those opponents that have fewer Hit Dice than the creature has.

Multiple exposures to the same effect don’t trigger an escalation of fear. Exposure to different effects does. When such multiple exposures occur, the worst stage of fear lasts until the duration of all the effects causing the fear expire.

What Fear Is:

Fear is a debuffer in the first instance, a repeller in the second instance, and an incapacitator in the third instance.

What Fear Is Not:

Fear effects, in and of themselves, do not kill enemies. You must still have an effect that can inflict damage on the enemy. Having said that, if you can get an enemy cowering, the battle is pretty much over.

Stages of Fear

“Fear is not a simple state. It is not a matter of being scared, or not; fear is a spectrum, a continuum, a scale on which your enemy may unnerved, or terrified beyond rational thought, and any stage between. To understand fear, you must know the stages of fear.”

To be effective in the use of fear tactics, you must understand about fear stages. The four stages are shaken, frightened, panicked, and cowering

Shaken creatures take an (untyped) -2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.

Frightened creatures take penalties as if shaken, and they flee from the source of their fear as quickly as they can. They can choose the path of their flight.

Frightened creatures can use pretty much any method to escape, including those requiring concentration. Once frightened creatures can’t sense the source of their fear, they can act as they want.

From the Player’s Handbook:

A panicked creature must drop anything it holds and flee at top speed from the source of its fear, as well as any other dangers it encounters, along a random path. It can’t take any other actions. In addition, the creature takes a –2 morale penalty on saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.

If cornered, a panicked creature cowers and does not attack, typically using the total defence action in combat. A panicked creature can use special abilities, including spells, to flee; indeed, the creature must use such means if they are the only way to escape.

However, in the Rules Compendium, the rules for the cowering state, and the escalation from the panicked state are made clear. Instead of the ‘-2 morale penalty’, the penalty is now an untyped penalty which acts in all ways as the shaken state. The total defence action in case of the cornered, panicked enemy has been replaced with the cowering state. Thus:

Panicked creatures take penalties as if shaken, and they flee from the source of their fear as quickly as they can. Their path is random. They flee from all other dangers that confront them rather than facing those dangers. Panicked creatures cower if they’re prevented from fleeing.

Cowering creatures are frozen in fear and can take no actions. A cowering creature takes a –2 penalty to AC and loses its Dexterity bonus (in all applications). Note that since a cowering creature must, by definition, pass through the panicked stage, the enemy must also drop anything it holds.

              Objectives & Methods

“Now you know more about fear, you must learn the application of fear. You must find a way into your enemy’s mind, you must find a way to extract their tiniest phobias, and to enhance it, magnify it, manifest it until it is real. True fears grows. You must nourish the fear, nurture it like a child before turning it on the enemy. Then, and only then, will you have dominion over your enemy.”


Based on what we have learned in the Stages of Fear, we must set some objectives:

1.   Assess the field of battle and ready yourself to act when the enemy is an appropriate tactical position.
2.   Commence the Fear Escalation.
3.   Ensure a Fear contributor has a duration long enough to ensure that the enemy can be destroyed within a reasonable time frame.
4.   Ensure no escape, or that the escape itself is lethal.
5.   Commence the beatdown.


Method One:

Fast Escalation, Fast Response.

To achieve this method, you must find a very low number of effects that takes an enemy to panicked as quickly as possible, then blocks any means of escape. The enemy will cower, and from there, you start the beatings. This is a very dangerous tactic, quite difficult to achieve, but when it works, it is quite devastating.

Method Two:

Layered Escalation, Measured Response.

To achieve this method, you must layer fear effects until the enemy gets to panicked, and then block any means of escape. The enemy will cower, and from there, you start the beatings. This is the easiest method to achieve, and often allows for nice, long fear durations, so you can take your time beating your enemy to a pulp.

Method Three:

Staged Escalation, Automatic Response.

To achieve this method, you must layer fear effects until the enemy gets to panicked, and then allow any means of escape that will send your enemy into traps or effects that are going to get them killed. This method is more of a DM method, as it is a passive method, relying on traps, pits, spell effects or nearby monsters to do the actual damage.

I will be concentrating most on Method Two, because it is most easily achieved.

First, however, let’s look at techniques to create fear. The best fear generators have one, or more, of the following qualities:

No Save: This is extremely important, as the enemy can’t make a save if there isn’t one.
Strong escalation: A fear effect that makes an enemy shaken is great, but one which sends it to frightened, or panicked, is even better.
Fear Penetration: If it can affect a creature immune to fear effects, then it has great value.
Long duration. Remember: If it can extend a fear effect, it extends every fear effect.
Great Numbers or Area: Any fear effect that affects more than one enemy is better than a single target, obviously.
Movement Restrictions: Any effect that restricts movement can trigger the effect from panicked to cowering. At that point, you have won.

The worst fear generators have one, or more, of the following qualities:

Double saves: If an effect needs greater than one save, the chances of affecting your enemy are pretty slim. Avoid these.
No escalation: A fear effect that can only make an enemy shaken, and no more, is nowhere near as useful as one which allows escalation.
One-Shots: A fear effect that allows for immunity if a save is made can be a hindrance.
Alignment-Specificity: A fear effect that can only be done by a specific alignment restricts the value. The character concept should not come before the utility.
Short duration: Short effects lead to little time for hammering the enemy into the ground.
One target: The more suffering, the better.
Target Restriction: A fear effect capped to hit dice is fine at low level, but quickly becomes ineffective.

Some debatable fear generator qualities include:

Range: Generally speaking, range is your greatest friend – it allows for flexibility and safety. However, since part of the strength of fear effects is the ability to make the fear-affected enemy vulnerable to ally attacks, it is often in your best interest to make an enemy be in close range before you terrify them.
Damage: The ability to inflict damage is a secondary consideration to escalating fear. Note, however, that inflicting damage can come in handy.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 04:22:57 PM by Periaden »

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2013, 11:59:59 AM »

“One thing of which I am certain is that some races lend themselves readily to the nature of fear. The half-elf knows the mind; the gnome knows the nature of deception; the human learns and adapts readily. But all of them pale before the brutality of the half-orc. I am sure Vern would not mind me saying that.”

The range of character races available are vast. I shall mention a few which stick out as strong choices.

The half-orc takes a hit to Charisma, but the half-orc gets access to the Menacing Demeanor feat (Races of Destiny), which is pure gold for the Demoralise method. Similarly, access to the Paragon of Half-Orcs class is very useful. Note that the Desert Half-Orc (Unearthed Arcana) does not take a penalty hit, making it a clear winner here.

The synergy between gnomes / illusions / Shadowcraft Magi / Nightmare Spinners is very strong. If you’re going for the Caster method, then gnomes are very strong. Similarly, access to the Paragon of Gnomes class is very useful.

Grey Elf
An intelligence bonus means a Save DC bonus, which means a better chance of affecting your enemy. Every bit helps. Access to the Paragon of Elves class is very useful.

A bonus feat is always, always useful.

Of course, there are dozens of other races. Charisma-boosting races (or templates) are very useful, as are those with an illusion focus; this is a very short list.

              Base Classes

“Your career defines how much fear you can generate.”

If you are taking the demoralising route, Barbarian is an excellent choice. The barbarian’s rage forms the basis of the excellent intimidating rage feat; note that any rage can be used, which also makes the Paragon of Half-Orcs a strong entry point.

With so many mind effects, the bard is a master of mind effects. It forms the basis for the Sublime Chord, has excellent skill points, and has many of the class skills required for other fear classes. Using Inspire Awe makes the bard very useful, and the excellent Doomspeak is probably the best debuff in the game.

Not as strong with fear effects, the cleric is always a powerful class. Doom, as a first level spell, makes cleric an excellent dip, if nothing else.

With access to so many tactically useful feats, and with intimidate, the fighter is a terrifying opponent. Often used as padding to grant more feats easily, the zhentarim fighter is, by itself, a devastating class. I would love to see a combination Dungeoncrash-Trip-Fear Fighter. Real battlefield control, right there.

Particularly for the half-orc, the paladin is a high-charisma class, which can be very powerful. Paladin synergises well with sorcerors, clerics and bards, and the half-orc paladin ACF is very nice.

Another high-charisma class, the sorceror can churn out a lot of fear effects. Their natural high charisma makes it very hard to resist many fear effects.

The most tactically flexible Arcane caster class, wizards often use Charisma as a dump stat, which means that a wizard fear inducer needs to make sure that, whenever possible, they shouldn’t allow a save. 

Dread Necromancer
With fear inherent in the class, no fear handbook is complete without the Dread Necromancer. Their fear aura has a 5’ range, but that can make all the difference.


“I met a man who claims he chained demons to his soul. A creature of possession, and mystery.”

For those using the Tome of Magic, Chupoclops & Focalar are fantastic at debuffing, which is vitally important in fear effects. Vanus has a great fear aura, too.

              Prestige Classes

“It’s surprising how just a small movement away from one’s vocation can enhance your skills so dramatically. Something to consider.”

Acolyte of the Skin
The 3rd level ability, albeit once per day, is awesome: You automatically make an enemy shaken for ten minutes, and you stun them with a failed Save. The duration and automatic effect makes this an excellent dip, albeit losing some caster levels. Characterful and dramatic.

Avenging Executioner
Nongood, but otherwise it is a very characterful, dramatic class, that just happens to be devastating for the sneak attacker / demoraliser. Rapid Intimidation makes demoralising a move equivalent action, and bloody murder forces a fear effect if you drop an enemy. Add in some sudden strike damage, and this is a very effective class.

Champion of Gwynharwyf
When a 4th level Champion of Gwynharwyf enters a rage, you make an Intimidate check. Any enemy that comes within 30 feet of you while you are raging must make a Will save against a DC equal to your Intimidate check result. Those who fail become shaken for 1d4+1 rounds or the duration of the rage, whichever is longer. In short, if someone comes near you (say, someone fleeing from another source of fear), they get hammered again.

Dread Witch
Simply put, the Dread Witch is the best class for a fear caster. One dead level, and after that, it is magnificent. You can burn through fear immunity, boost your save DCs, reflect fear back on the originator, and delay fear effects so that they all hit at once. Just an excellent class.

The 3rd level Inspire Dread ability can lower saves dramatically, making this class potentially useful.

As many have stated, one level is enough. There is nice synergy for prerequisites with (for example) Nightmare Spinner.

Mystic Theurge
A useful filler class for a dual caster. The use of the Versatile Spellcaster / Heighten Spell combination for early entry can be a useful synergy.

Nightmare Spinner
One level in this class is spectacularly good; I don’t know why most casters – especially illusionists -  don’t take it, even considering the caster level loss; create fear a few times per day, immunity to fear, and a bonus spell of every level! Nightmare phantasms make their illusions fear-inducing, Spirit chill causes more damage. Really, three levels is about right, as 4th gets nothing, and 5th gets the devastating ability to make people just drop dead, if you can bear the empty 4th level. An excellent, powerful class.

Scarlet Corsair / Dread Pirate
I really like these classes (which are so similar they have been combined): the shaken effect from a sneak attack is excellent; the corsair’s feint is extremely useful for a sneak attacker. But, for fear effects, the 5th level Scourge of the Seas effect is excellent; a demoralise that affects more targets, for longer, makes for an excellent demoraliser base.

Shadowcraft Mage
The class has been discussed here and here. It is a very strong, very powerful class; with very little tweaking, mostly via Nightmare Spinner, it is lethally scary.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 12:29:38 PM by Periaden »

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2013, 12:11:11 PM »

“In your training, you will learn much. Tricks and traits that will allow you to make your enemy fear you. Choose your path wisely. There is a world of difference for the uninitiated between demoralizing a foe and, for example, summoning an illusion of their greatest fear, which reaches out and stops their heart; I shall say it again: choose wisely.”

I will cover only feats which are reasonably easily found; I don’t think that the ghost manifestations from Ghostwalk, for example, will see much utility here.

Baleful Moan (LM24)
A very limiting choice. You have to be undead and incorporeal. It is a standard action, and a successful save provides 24 hour immunity.

Bloodsoaked Intimidate (CR17)
A poor choice. It requires a weak feat to begin and is very unlikely to ever see use. However, it does allow an intimidate check as a swift action.

Charnel Miasma (CC57)
Well, you need access to the Death Domain, which can be troublesome. But, as a standard action, one foe within 30’ can be shaken for one minute if they fail their Will Save. So, far, not too exciting; but, if the enemy is already shaken, they escalate to panicked. You also gain a +1 competence bonus to your caster level when casting death spells. This feat is reasonable, but not fantastic.

Daunting Presence (LM25)
A standard action to awe an opponent. On the upside, this feat has a duration of ten minutes. However, on the downside, this feat only affects one enemy, and cannot escalate past shaken. A poor choice.

Fearsome and Fearless (OA62)
On one hand, it increases the DC of the fear effects you generate by 1; however, it is campaign specific, so DM veto might be a hindrance.

Fell Frighten (LM27)
This metamagic feat creates a shaken effect, with no save, on any target that is subject to mind-affecting fear effects. The duration is one minute. The cost is a +2 level adjustment to the spell. This is an excellent, powerful feat choice. Take it as soon as possible.

Haunting Melody (HH123)
A bardic music effect, this effect kicks in whenever you use a Perform-based skill check, making an enemy shaken. With a range of 30’, and affecting every enemy who can hear, it has potential. It escalates, and has a duration in rounds equal to your ranks in Perform. This is a good choice, limited only to your charisma and bard level.

Intimidating Rage (CW102)
While raging, you get a free demoralise attempt against a single enemy within 30’. This seems an acceptable choice, until you get the never outnumbered skill trick (Complete Scoundrel, Page 87), which allows you to affect every enemy within 10’ when you demoralise someone. Friends, this is a strong feat, made truly powerful. I would advise you to now skip down to Imperious Command, and consider the potential for hilarity.

Fearsome Necromancy (CM42)
Adequate, but no better. It looks great – if an enemy has to make a save vs. a necromancy effect, they are shaken, but it doesn’t escalate, and only lasts for one round. Useful for part-time necromancers, otherwise, not worth it.

Terrifying Strike [Ambush] (DrU54)
Adequate, but no better. On a sneak attack, your enemy is shaken for one round. You lose 1d6 sneak attack damage, and the fear effect doesn’t escalate past shaken.

Dreadful Wrath (PG38)
When you charge, make a full attack or cast a spell on an enemy, you gain a frightful presence for that round. It has a 20’ radius, and a duration of one minute. Successful Will Saves provide immunity for 24 hours. The effect is an extraordinary morale effect. Affecting multiple enemies, with a strong duration, this feat is virtually a must-have. The only drawbacks are DM veto (Forgotten Realms specific), and race-specificity (human or planetouched being the most common, but there are ways around this). Anyone using a fear build would be well advised to consider this feat.

Imperious Command (DrU50)
If you are going the demoralise route to fear, you need this feat. If you successfully demoralize a foe in combat, the foe cowers in fear for 1 round and is shaken in the following round. But wait; if you use Intimidating Rage, the duration is now as long as you rage; even better, use Dreadful Wrath, and the enemy is now cowering for a minute.

              Synergistic Feats

“The nature of fear is based around belief. Your enemy must believe that their fear is real, that the promise of what they fear most is manifest, real. You must convince your enemy, at every step, that the threat, the promise of danger, is real. You must be believable, be it through being duplicitous, or sincere, or overwhelmingly confident.”

Nymph’s Kiss (BoED44)
+2 to all Charisma checks is very useful. The bonus skill points and bonus to saves is just icing on this delicious cake. If you have room, take this feat, preferably at 1st level for the bonus skill points. 

Doomspeak (CR18)
Using a bardic music effect, you can curse an enemy within 120’ to suffer a -10 penalty on attack rolls, saves, ability checks and skill checks. Used as a precursor to Mind Fog, this might be one of the best debuffs in the game. As always, if you can lower an enemy’s Will Save, you are on your way to terrifying them.

Invisible Spell (Cityscape)
If you want an enemy to fall victim to a trap, such as a Fell-Frightening Evard’s Black Tentacles, then why not make it invisible as well?

              Special Abilities & Class Substitution Levels

“The bard is an excellent fear inducer – who else know the way of the hearts and minds of men? Still, there are other, darker places one might find the ways of fear…”

Inspire Awe
If you use a Perform Check as a standard action, every enemy within 30’ must make a Will Save equal to the bard’s Perform check. Failure means that the enemy is shaken as long as the bard performs, and for one round after. Consider using this feat in conjunction with the Haunting Melody feat, which will greatly affect the duration. Note that Perform checks can be improved very quickly. You should have a look at the Circlet of Persuasion magic item, as well as the

Zhentarim Fighter
Found as a Web Enhancement, the downside is the fact that the Zhentarim are considered pretty much evil. You might convince your DM to allow a good-or-neutral version, but don’t bet on it. However, consider this as reasons for having a tenth level fighter (yes, the capstone ability is at level 9, but really, who takes odd levels of fighter?): You gain Skill Focus (Intimidate), and you get to demoralize as a swift action. Add in Imperious Command, Dreadful Wrath, and Never Outnumbered, and you have one seriously scary fighter. Oh, and there’s still space to fit in some Dungeoncrasher. If you take a fighter, take these substitution levels. Simple.


“For some people, to be frightening is their nature, not just their inclination.”

Unnatural Aura (Dragon Magazine, Issue 356, Page 89)
Taken at 1st level, this trait costs you a -2 penalty for all interactions with animals and vermin. The (untyped) bonus is a +2 on all Intimidate checks and to the DC of all spells with the [Fear] Descriptor. This is an excellent investment.

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2013, 12:15:39 PM »

“I have an acquaintance, by the name of Vern. A delightful man; honourable and trustworthy – yet when he allows ‘The Crimson’ – as he calls it – to pull him down, he turns into a monster. The thought of what he could do makes me worry, sometimes.”

Don’t underestimate demoralising. Unlike spells, demoralising works against spell-immune creatures, in an anti-magic field, etc. And it’s surprisingly easy to get amazing at it.

First, the mechanics of demoralising. From the SRD: You can also use Intimidate to weaken an opponent’s resolve in combat. To do so, make an Intimidate check opposed by the target’s modified level check (see above). If you win, the target becomes shaken for 1 round. A shaken character takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. You can intimidate only an opponent that you threaten in melee combat and that can see you.

You gain a +4 bonus on your Intimidate check for every size category that you are larger than your target. Conversely, you take a –4 penalty on your Intimidate check for every size category that you are smaller than your target. A character immune to fear (such as a paladin of 3rd level or higher) can’t be intimidated, nor can nonintelligent creatures. If you have the Persuasive feat, you get a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks.

Synergy: If you have 5 or more ranks in Bluff, you get a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks.

So, obviously, to get good at demoralising, and to make it effective, we have a few objectives:

1.   Get good at intimidating.
2.   Threaten lots of enemies, or a large area.
3.   Try to make a demoralising check into a move, swift, or free action.

Step 1: Get good at Demoralising.

Well, to be more intimidating, we have a few methods:

1.   Gain lots of ranks in Intimidate. This is easy. Make it a class skill, and maximise the ranks.
2.   Increase your charisma (or strength, if you use the Strength-to-Intimidate variant rule. I will assume Charisma is used). Enhancement bonuses and the Charm Domain are your best bet here.
3.   Get larger – which is also very handy if you want to threaten a large area. The enlarge spell is of course the easy option, as well as being a low-LA, size large creature – The Half-Ogre is best, here.
4.   Get lots of synergies and bonuses.

A little more detail here. First, 5 ranks in Bluff is an easy +2. Skill Focus (Intimidate) is a feat investment, but +3 by itself, and the Persuasive Feat gets another +2. But there are easier ways. Let’s start with a desert half-orc (Unearthed Arcana, Page 12). With no Charisma penalties, we have a great base to start with. The Menacing Demeanour feat (Races of Destiny) adds another +4, and a level of Paragon of Half-Orcs (Unearthed Arcana Page 40) nets another +4. If we give our charismatic half-orc an 18 Charisma, we have a +12 to demoralise with the expenditure of one feat and one level. Then we can stack on the other bonuses.

Step 2: Threaten a large area.

If you can’t be large, then get a spiked chain, or something with reach.

Step 3: Demoralise faster and better.

The non-lawful Scarlet Corsair can affect all enemies within 30 that can see and hear you with their demoralising, and it lasts a number of rounds equal to your charisma modifier. Their corsair’s feint is also very useful for getting in some sneak attacks.

The Dread Pirate (Complete Adventurer) gets the same ability at the same level (5th). It’s pretty much the same Prestige Class, in fact.

Following the half-orc theme, the half-orc paladin variant in Races of Destiny, to replace Aura of Courage, has Aura of Awe. Evil creatures within 10 feet of the character take a –2 penalty on saves against fear effects (or on checks made to resist his Intimidate attempts). Hmm, -2 on all fear effects? Excellent!

Bloodsoaked Intimidate (CR17): represents a poor choice. It requires a weak feat to begin and is very unlikely to ever see use. However, it does allow an intimidate check as a swift action.

Of course, the cheapest way to get your demoralise checks better is to use the Never Outnumbered skill trick from  Complete Scoundrel. When you use Intimidate to demoralize an opponent, it affects everybody within 10’ that can see you. No need to threaten them.

But, of course, the best synergy is with the feats Intimidating Rage and Imperious Command. Intimidating Rage (CW102) grants you the ability, while raging, to get a free demoralise attempt against a single enemy within 30’.

Imperious Command (DrU50): If you are going the demoralise route to fear, you need this feat. If you successfully demoralize a foe in combat, the foe cowers in fear for 1 round and is shaken in the following round.

Simply, Dreadful Wrath + Imperious Command + Intimidating Rage + a single attack = hilarity. Look at Vern, in the builds section.

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2013, 12:16:01 PM »
              Magic Items

“I am often asked about how enchanted items can aid in the creation of fear. These ensorcelled items have their place – but I tend to think of them as being an aid, rather than a means to an end.”

Amulet of Fearsome Might (Dragon Magazine, Issue 332, Page 70)
Doubles the radius of the wearer’s innate frightful presence, and increases the DC to save against it by +2. In addition, any spells (or spell-like abilities) with the [Fear] descriptor cast by the wearer have their DC increased by +2. It doesn’t stack (explicitly) with the feats Spell Focus or Greater Spell Focus. This item has a CL of 7, costs 11,100 g.p, weighs 1 lb. and takes up the throat slot.

Fearsome Armour
Applied to an armour or shield, you can activate it as a swift command to make every creature within 20’ panic for one round. One a successful DC16 Will save, the enemy is shaken for one round instead.  You can use this three times per day. Magic Item Compendium, Pg 11. This item has a CL of 7, costs 15,000 g.p, but does not increase the ‘plus’ of the armour or shield.

Menacing Armour
As a standard action, you can activate menacing armour. Any one creature within 30’, with fewer Hit Dice than yourself, needs to make a Will Save (DC 10 + 1/2 your HD + your Cha modifier) or be panicked for 5 rounds. Success means that the target is shaken for 1 round instead, and is immune to the fear for 24 hours. You can use the fear ability three times per day. Magic Item Compendium, Pg 13. This item has a CL of 9, and costs 30,000 g.p.

Domineering Weapon
An enemy hit with a domineering weapon must make a DC16 Will Save or be shaken for one minute. This fear effect does not escalate. This item has a caster level of 11, and costs a ‘+2’ equivalency.

Mace of Terror
On the plus side, it is useful as a +2 heavy mace. On command, three times per day it causes all living creatures within a 30’ cone to make a DC16 Will Save or panic. You get three uses per day. The main problem is the cost. At 38,552 gold, it’s not cheap. It has a caster level of 13th.

Screaming Bolt
All enemies within 20 feet of the path of the bolt must make a DC14 Will Save or become shaken. What is the range of a crossbow bolt? In terms of area, this one is a winner. It has a caster level of 5th, and costs 267 gold pieces. In the right tactical situation, this thing is priceless.

Drums of Panic
These kettle drums have a range of 120 feet (with the exception of those within a 20-foot-radius safe zone around the drums) are affected as by a fear spell (Will DC16). If the enemy saves, they are shaken, if they fail, they are panicked. Costing 30,000 gold, and weighing in at 10 lbs, there is a cost, not to mention that they can only be used once per day. They have a Caster Level of 17th. Look, get creative with these items. Shrink them down. Make your familiar play them. Hire some cretin for minimum wage and make everyone escalate their fear saves by one, within a 120’ range. Don’t get me wrong, these items are not cool. What they lose in cool, they make up in awesome.

Eyes of Doom
An expensive item, these lenses take up the face slot, which is little used. One enemy per round meeting your gaze must make a fairly pathetic DC11 Will Save or be affected by a Doom spell. However, if the wearer has both lenses, he gains the additional power of a continual deathwatch effect and can use fear (Will DC 16 partial) as a normal gaze attack once per week. While Doom is a nice spell, the DC is way too low for it to be effective.

Doom Burst Weapon
Whenever you score a critical hit with a Doom Burst weapon, the target becomes shaken with no saving throw for 5 rounds. Unfortunately, the effect doesn’t stack with itself or with any other fear effects. It has a Caster Level of 11th, and costs the equivalent of a ‘+2’ enhancement. Don’t do it. It’s a trap.

Axe of the Sea Reavers
As well as being a +1 greataxe, you can float on water, regardless of your weight.  You can also create a war cry which gives a +2 morale bonus on attack rolls, weapon damage, saves, skill checks, and ability checks for 1 round. In addition, you can cause all enemies within 15 feet of you become panicked for 1 round (Will DC 16 negates).
Each of these abilities is usable once per day. Magic Item Compendium, Page 47. This item has a CL of 7, and costs 10,320 gp.

Note that Intelligent Item Greater Powers can create cause fear in an enemy at will (+7,200 gp).

Platinum Helm
This helm makes you immune to the frightful presence of evil dragons if you are lawful good, neutral good, or lawful neutral. If you can activate the relic power, you can create a frightful presence effect. (DC 10 + 1/2 your Hit Dice + your Cha modifier) Will Save or panicked (if it has 4 or fewer HD) or shaken (if it has 5 or more HD) for 4d6 rounds. 60’ Range, usable three times per day. Magic Item Compendium, Page 117. This item has a CL of 20, and costs 5,000 gp.

Breastplate of Terror
Acts as an adamantine Breastplate +1 (so it gives damage reduction). Also, once per day as an immediate action in response to an attack, you can create a fear effect that frightens an enemy for one round, or shakes them if they pass the DC20 Will Save. Magic Item Compendium, Page 192. This item has a CL of 5, and costs 13,200 gp.

Mask of the Matriarch (Dru)
You can can make a gaze attack three times per day against all creatures within 30’. Those who fail a DC20 Will save cower in fear for 1 round and are shaken on the following round. It takes up the face slot, has a caster level of 11th, and costs 9000 gold. So much better than the Eyes of Doom.

Flaying Rod
Aah, those whacky drow dominatrixes. The flaying rod functions a +1 scourge of speed, and on a confirmed critical hit, the creature struck is wracked with pain and cowers for one round. When you cast spells with the fear descriptor when holding a flaying rod, your caster level increases by 1. At 35,000 gold, it’s not cheap, and it requires a caster level of 7th. But, presumably, if you can get that 20 on a victim that is already under a long-duration shaken or frightened effect, then it’s pure win. To me, it seems a little unlikely.

Demon Rod (DrU)
Well, this item costs 20,308 gold and has a caster level of 18th. It acts as a +1 morningstar, and if you belt an enemy with a good alignment, they must succeed on a DC 20 Will save or be shaken for 1 round. Three times per day, you can spend a full-round action to make a melee touch attack with the demon rod. If you hit, the target takes no damage, but must make a DC 20 Will save or become panicked for 3 rounds. Unfortunately, if you aren’t evil this item gives you a negative level. Thematically nice, but not worth the money for the fear effect.

              Synergy Items

“I am a necromancer. For many years, I carried one of these creatures. It had been shrunk, and held within a crystal chamber which hung from my neck; the inherent evil within was not detectable; all I knew was that it aided me in my necromancy. Use the Slaymate with caution, lest it consume you.”

OK, bear with me on this. It’s not really a magic item, so much as it is a small, insane, undead child. Still, there’s no reason why you couldn’t ... oh, imprison one in an item and wear it on your person, since the creature doesn’t have to be willing to provide it’s benefit, which is enormous: Any necromantic spell cast near the Slaymate has the metamagic cost reduced by one. Considering just how many of the spells in the fear array are necromantic, you should utterly try to get one of these if you possibly can.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 12:39:21 PM by Periaden »

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2013, 12:16:14 PM »

“Now, we reach an area in which I have some knowledge. The correct selection of spells will make your fear creation simple. Remember, always, that fear is a creature that must be nurtured – the right combination of feats and spells will make you terrifying.”

Aura of Terror
OK, so it’s a 6th level spell. It makes people frightened, and has an area of 30’ radius. So far, not too bad. Oh, and it’s verbal only, which can be handy. It only affects creatures of less than your caster level, which you’re going to boost, anyway, so that shouldn’t be a big problem. The spell gives you a frightful presence for one minute per level! The duration of one minute per level means 11 minutes of being affected by fear. But if you cast this spell when you already have a frightful presence, the radius increases by ten feet. And the DC is ramped up by 2, and it escalates the effect by one. This spell is officially more fun than filling your trousers with ferrets. If you can possibly find a way to get this all day, you should do so immediately. Failing that, always have it prepared. Because if you cast a fell frightening spell, with your frightful presence (i.e. Dreadful Wrath) enhanced by this, the enemy is panicked. Simple as that. No save. Nothing. Go start scribing this immediately.

Blade of Pain and Fear
Hmm. You need to make a touch attack, which causes damage. If the enemy gets hit, they have to make a Will Save or be frightened for 1d4 rounds. But, if you use a Dreadful Wrath, they are panicked for one minute. That’s nice. But, why not make it a Fell Frightening Blade of Pain and Fear? You hit them, they take damage, then they become shaken for one minute (no save), then they make a save (at -2, thanks to being shaken), and if they fail, then they are frightened. Another save, and they are panicked. For a minute. And if they make the save, hit them again. It’s a pity it’s an evocation. Still, all in all, it’s an excellent spell.

Cause Fear
Compare this spell to Doom. Cause Fear affects one target only – no change there. If the creature makes the save, it is still shaken – excellent – albeit for one round, only. But creatures of 6 HD or more are immune to the spell. So, the spells are tactically different. Use Doom if the target is greater than 5 HD, or if they are likely to fail their save. Otherwise, Doom them.

Well, this spell only affects one target. They get a save. It is divine, only. These things are bad. The following things are good: The fear effect can escalate. It lasts for one minute per level. It has a massive range (if you need it). Oh, and it is a first level spell. This spell has vast potential. If you’re a divine caster, you should take it if you have any interest in creating fear.

Dream Casting
A very strange spell. Unlimited Range makes it a very effective scry-and-die spell. If the enemy fails their Will Save, they are shaken when they see you. For 24 hours per level, which means a minimum of 11 days. Combine this spell with scrying for maximum effect. A great monster’s spell.

Quite the odd duck, this spell. It affects one living creature. It has a decent duration (a minimum of 11 rounds), but only affects one person (restrictive), only affects up to 9 HD enemies with the fear effect (restrictive), is evil (restrictive), and it is sixth level. Now, the only thing this spell has going for it is one, specific thing: it is not a mind-affecting fear spell. Very specifically, it is the power of evil which causes the effects. So, undead, oozes, etc – this one is for you.

This spell affects a 30’ cone, which is a great start, as it has tactical use it shepherding people into a direction. It offers a save. Failure means panicking / cowering, and success means they are shaken. This is an excellent spell, as it is tactically strong, and has an effect regardless of the save. The duration of one round per level means at least seven rounds, which is a good place to start.

Haunting Tune
Well, it affects one creature level. A decent start. It has a long range, and Will negates. Fairly neutral there. But it escalates, and makes the enemy shaken for ten minutes per level. A minimum of seventy minutes? Four hundred and twenty rounds? That’s more than enough time to coup de grace anything, really. Combine with escalating effects, and use this spell as your duration extender. Oh, it’s an enchantment, so use it with abilities that crank up the DC of enchantment. Bards get lots of those.

Imperious Glare
Another 6th level spell – there are so many fear effects at this level! Well, it affects one creature per level, so 11+ creatures. The range is a minimum of 50’, which is adequate. Oh, and the DC for the Will Save is either the standard value, or the save DC for your frightful presence ability. So, is this spell any good? The answer is a staggering yes, because it doesn’t make enemies panic; it makes them cower. Don’t bother cutting off escape methods, this spell does it all. Go and buy a scroll of this spell immediately.

Night’s Caress
A 5th level spell with a range of touch. This spell causes 1d6+2 points of Constitution damage, and 1d6 points of (untyped) damage – and a Fortitude save only negates the Constitution loss. Sounds good – like a fireball, but no save, and no energy resistance. But what’s it doing here, in the Fear Handbook? Well, if you touch an undead with it, they flee, as if panicked for 1d4 rounds, +1 round per caster level. An interesting, multi-purpose spell. The only problem is that touch range. I suggest the Reach Spell feat if you want to scare some undead.

Opalescent Glare
Well, a rarity here. A [Good] [Death] spell. It is sixth level, allows a Will Save, and affects creatures within 60’ as a gaze attack. If they are 5 Hit Dice or less and make their save, they are affected as though by a fear spell (that’s a panic effect, folks), for 2d10 minutes. An average of 11 minutes of panicking / cowering? If you can’t kill 5 HD creatures in eleven minutes, you need more than fear. Of course, if the enemy fail their save, they just die. Anyone of greater than 5HD are panicked if they fail their save. So, for pure hilarity, surround an army and then go nuts with this spell.

Phantasmal Killer
Twin saves mean a staggeringly low chance of affecting your target. It only affects one creature. And, at the end of the day, it isn’t a fear spell, it’s a damage spell. Give this one a miss.

A 2nd level spell that affects one creature, lasts one round per level, has a close range, and makes the enemy shaken. All very normal fare for a fear spell, except for one thing. Follow my logic, if you will. If you fail the spell, you also become dazed. Since you are dazed, you may not take any actions. Since you can take no actions, you cannot move and are prevented from fleeing. Panicked creatures cower if they’re prevented from fleeing. Therefore, if you have a frightened enemy, and then you hit them with a successful Rebuke, they get dazed for one round, stopped from fleeing, and then they are cowering for the duration of what made them frightened in the first place. I would like to say that if your DM punches you in the trachea for doing this, I am not responsible.

Rebuke, Greater
A 4th level spell, as the name implies, it is a better version of Rebuke. It affects one creature, lasts one round per level, has a close range, and makes the enemy cower for 1d4 rounds. Use this after a nice, long duration escalating effect and you’re free for all sorts of shenanigans.

This spell has a long range, affects one creature per three levels, but instead of panicking / cowering an enemy, it makes them frightened, albeit for one round per level, if they fail their save. Not too bad for affecting multiple targets, but there are better spells.

So, you have a 5th level spell that can create a hemisphere of one foot radius per level, so a minimum of nine feet. You can also create a wall, which should be able to be curved (the picture shows it curved, but you might want to check with your DM – read some of the other Wall spells for inspiration) covering one 10’ square per level. Now, every creature within 60’ of the ‘frightening side’ must make a Will Save or be frightened for 1d4 rounds. If you touch the wall, you lose 1d10 hit points, and must make a Fortitude save or lose a level. It provides cover, total concealment, and blocks line of effect. Very interesting. Now, since it causes damage, you can make a Fell Frightening Spiritwall, which will automatically escalate the fear to panicking. But, since the wall causes damage, it represents a danger. A panicking creature must flee from all other dangers that confront them rather than facing those dangers. Panicked creatures cower if they’re prevented from fleeing. End result: A Fell Frightening Spirit Wall which surrounds an enemy forces a Will Save. If the enemy fail, they cower for one minute. Great stuff.

Symbol of Fear
This spell is expensive (1000 gp), but has the potential to affect a lot of enemies; of course, by the time your enemies are competitive with a someone casting 6th level spells, their saves might be sky-high as well. The main fault with Symbol of Fear, however, is this: fear, by itself, does no damage; unless an enemy is present to take advantage of the fear of the targets, the spell is for nought. Still, the panicked status is nice. Essentially, if used tactically well, it is a brilliant spell; if used poorly, it is a distraction.

Wail of Doom (Complete Adventurer)
A 5th level bard spell. It causes damage (1d4 per caster level), which means you can make a Fell-Frightening Wail of Doom. It makes enemies panic for one round per caster level, or shaken (frightened with Fell Frightening) if they make their Will Save. Not bad, but a bit high in level.

As a level 9 spell, you would expect it to be fantastic. But it isn’t. The unlimited number of targets sees very little common use; the fact that it is still a twin-save spell, at this level, makes it fairly useless.

              Synergistic Spells

“Remember: The correct environment will make fear inevitable; An Invisible, Fell Frightening, Fell Weakening Kelgore’s Grave Mist will make an enemy fatigued, weakened and frozen. They will be terrified, unable to escape, and not even sure why.”

This spell applies -1 penalty on saves vs. Fear, to all enemies that fail a Will Save. This spell has tactical use against crowds, only. Otherwise, the value of -1 to saves isn’t worth the spell level, even if it is level 1.

Mind Fog
Let’s get the paradox out of the way: If you can get an enemy to fail their Will Save, their Will Saves for the next 2d6+ rounds will be at -10. This is awesome; but, you have to get them to fall victim. Invisible Spell (Cityscape) is an option.

Evard’s Black Tentacles
A movement-restriction spell that inflicts damage. Excellent for a Fell-Frightening effect, since the enemy can’t run, so they cower if panicked.

If they can’t teleport, they cower if panicked, since there’s no easy escape from that thing.

Kelgore’s Grave Mist (PHB II)
1d6 cold damage (enables Fell Frightening), the chance of fatiguing, and then a chance of shaking everyone in the area with Fell Frightening. Nice!

Magic Missile
An old favourite. Simply put, this is a delivery system for the Fell Frightening feat. At 9th caster level, you are getting 5 enemies that are shaken, with a third level spell. Add in Dreadful Wrath, and it’s time for hilarity.

Love’s Lament (SpC)
A bard spell that strips 1d6 points of Wisdom (lowering Will Saves), and nauseates (potentially hindering movement) are two excellent synergies with fear effects.

Touch of Idiocy
Anything that lowers saves is good, and it is also a nice setup into the devastating Ray of Stupidity.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 12:45:21 PM by Periaden »

Offline Periaden

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2013, 12:16:26 PM »

“I would like to introduce you to some friends.”

Just as a point of clarification, the builds below are not, to use an analogy, the complete cake, ready for consumption. It is a list of ingredients (classes), for which you must decide the order. What type of icing (optional feats, magic items, etc) you decide on is up to personal preference. All I can say is that, if you use these ingredients, you will have an edible cake.


“Hannibal has never been the same since the Demon, Siverex, was subsumed into Hannibal’s form. Still, for a man that struggles with evil every day, he has strong virtues.”

(click to show/hide)


“Cromwell is a good friend, if a touch enamoured with combat. You should not believe a word he says, even though his tongue be dripping with honeyed words.”

(click to show/hide)


“Seldon has learned more about magic than any of us could aspire to; his magic transcends magic, and it ventures into the realm of the supernatural.”

(click to show/hide)


“Adan is a complex man. He is a telepath, a mind reader, and intensely insightful. He can make anyone fear him – even me.”

This build is very strongly based on my Dreamtwister build.

(click to show/hide)


“I first met Nadia past the mists of Ravenloft. There is no single creature alive more able to create fear from the mists of illusion. Her creations are as beautiful as they are terrifying."

(click to show/hide)

Vernon ('Vern') Karache.

“There is more to Vern than meets the eye. He is magnificent, and terrifying.”

(click to show/hide)


“And, finally, me.”

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: February 04, 2013, 03:58:16 PM by Periaden »

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2013, 12:16:49 PM »

Offline phaedrusxy

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Re: The Fear Handbook (Caedrus)
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2013, 11:48:13 PM »
I was going to post this in the discussion thread for this, but... it seems there isn't one! Anyway, Ghost Storm, a spell from one of the Far Corners of the World articles, is awesome for any fear-based spellcaster. It's an area affect that inflicts the Shaken condition even on a successful save.
I don't pee messages into the snow often , but when I do , it's in Cyrillic with Fake Viagra.  Stay frosty my friends.