: Neutral Good. Sacred Exorcists must be good, and Bards may not be lawful. Abilities
: Intelligence 13+, and the higher the Charisma, the better. Feats
Level 1: Heighten Spell
Level 3: Fell Frighten (Libris Mortis)
Level 6: Spell Focus
Level 9: Arcane Thesis [Silent Image]
Level 12: Free. I would suggest Doomspeak (Champions of Ruin) to make your enemies suffer -10 to their saves.
Level 15: Free. See Suggestions, below.
Level 18: Free. See Suggestions, below.Feat Suggestions
As NineInchNail suggested in his Shadowcraft Mage Handbook
, Earth Sense / Earth Spell are an excellent combination, as is Melodic Casting. I would also recommend Melodic Casting or Extra Turning (PHB). Doomspeak has been included but it is not necessary. Being able to debuff the enemy is extremely important in fear builds, which is why if you can get an enemy affected by Mind Fog, you utterly should. Notes
ACF: I would suggest swapping Inspire Courage with Inspire Awe. However, you don’t need it. Skills
To be honest, there is a very heavy skill requirements for this build, mostly due to the ridiculously byzantine requirements. It's a good thing that since Nadia needs at least a decent intelligence (13+, but 14 is worth the point for the skill point) she will get 56 Skill Points for her first 4 levels, which will go a long way towards all the skill requirements.Build Method
This is a fairly involved build, so I shall go level by level.
Level 1: Bard 1. Lots of Skill Points, Gnome Bard Substitution, Divine Bard Variant (Unearthed Arcana).
Level 2: Bard 2. You need to take Cause Fear (Bard1) as a known spell.
Level 3: Bard 3.
Level 4: Bard 4. You need to take Scare (Bard2) as a known spell.
Level 5: Illusionist 1.
Level 6: Dread Witch 1. The save DC of any fear spell increases by 1. Add bane and doom to wizard spell list as 2nd-level spells. Bonus to all Intimidate skill checks equal to +2 per class level.
Level 7: Dread Witch 2. Add Charisma modifier to bonuses vs. Will saves. Add in absorb fear, which makes any fear effect empower Nadia’s spells, until she becomes immune, at least.
Level 8: Dread Witch 3. Fearful Empowerment 2/day. If it has a visual manifestation, we can add in a fear descriptor, and a Will save or be shaken. We can also delay the onset of any fear effect, which is tactically massive when working with a fear using party.
Level 9: Dread Witch 4. Fear immunity is now useless to you.
Level 10: Dread Witch 5. Horrific Aura and Reflective Fear are just the icing on the cake at this point.
Level 11: Sublime Chord. Not much more needs to be said, other than we need to take Dismissal as one of our spells, and one shadow spell, perhaps Shadow Conjuration, as our level 4 spell.
Level 12: Shadowcraft Mage 1. Concealment. Useful.
Level 13: Shadowcraft Mage 2. Silent Illusion. Very useful.
Level 14: Shadowcraft Mage 3. Here we go. Let’s change those figments into shadows, and really start scaring people. Now, since we are using the Wizard (Illusionist) levels as a basis for our Sublime Chord, we should make certain that the spells which we heighten to higher levels come from our pool of Wizard spells, but it doesn’t really make much difference.
Level 15: Sacred Exorcist (Complete Divine, Pg 56). What? Where did Sacred Exorcist come from? Well, we need some turning attempts, and this is the best place. As well as netting Exorcism, we also get Turn Undead (3+Cha Mod / Day).
Level 16: Divine Prankster 1. Inspire Courage, which adds to our previous 4 Bard levels, which now means we can enrage enemies (Races of Stone, Pg 108). Nice.
Level 17: Divine Prankster 2. Infuse Figment. If we use one of our Turning attempts, we can add 10 to the DC of a figment spell. Wow.
Level 18: Nightmare Spinner 1. If you normally prepare spells (I do, as a Wizard), I can prepare and cast one additional illusion spell per level, per day? Great. But wait, there’s more: If you don’t need to prepare spells (which, as a bard, and also as a Sublime Chord, I don’t), you gain one extra spell slot per spell level, which can be used only to cast an illusion spell. So, you’re saying I get an extra (wizard) illusion of levels 1 through 3, an extra (bard) illusion of levels 0 through 2, and an extra (Sublime Chord) illusion of levels 4 through 9. Wow. That’s generous. And I’m also immune to fear? Sweet.
Level 19: Nightmare Spinner 2. Inspire Fear (3 + Cha Mod / Day). Shake somebody for 3 rounds? OK.
Level 20: Nightmare Phantasm. Well, that’s just the best thing, ever.Other Things to Remember
Having taken the Gnome Bard Racial Substitution Level at Level 1, Nadia can Counter Fear (instead of Countersong), and you get dancing lights, ghost sound and prestidigitation as o-level bard spells. We haven’t taken the 3rd level substitution level, since we want to inspire our comrades in their Intimidation effects.
Having taken the Gnome Bard Racial Substitution Level (Level 1), Nadia can use her Wizard level as the caster level for her racial spell-like abilities. That’s rather nice, as is getting illusion spells at a discounted level (Races of Stone, Pg 149).Caster Level
“A Sublime Chord’s caster levels for both her Sublime Chord levels and the spells she gains from other arcane spellcasting classes is determined by adding her Sublime Chord level to her level in another arcane spellcasting class.” (Complete Arcane)
Since Dread Necromancer adds to Wizard (Illusionist), then the Sublime Chord caster level is (Wizard (Illusionist) + Dread Necromancer caster levels (4) + Sublime Chord levels (1)) 5, and the levels of Divine Prankster (2) and Nightmare Spinner (1) and Shadowcraft Mage (5) make a 13th level caster.
I would suggest Practiced Spellcaster to increase this by 4. Variants and Thoughts
You might want to exchange a level of Nightmare Spinner for a level of Shadowcraft Mage. I have included the level of Nightmare Spinner because of this combination:
1. Fell Frighten allows you to alter a spell that deals damage (to become shaken for a minute).
2. Silent Image, amongst other illusions, does not deal damage.
3. Spirit Chill (Nightmare Spinner 3) causes any spell that has a fear effect to take (non-lethal) damage.
4. Nightmare Phantasm (Su): Beginning at 2nd level, when you cast a figment or glamer spell, you can choose to weave a thread of nightmare phantasm into it as a free action. The spell gains the phantasm descriptor. Each time any enemy attempts a Will save to disbelieve the affected illusion spell, a tiny portion of the spell transforms into a phantasm effect that targets that enemy. The enemy becomes shaken for 1 round (no save). This ability has no other effect on the original spell's duration or effectiveness.Interpretation Time
The text of Shadow Illusion (Races of Stone, Pg 122) states that the Shadowcraft Mage “is able to infuse some of her figments (examples given, including Silent Image) with material from the Plane of Shadow, making them partially real”. There is no point at which the application of Shadow Illusion is applied, but the inference (to me, at least) is that it is during the casting.
The text of Nightmare Phantasm (Complete Mage, Pg 74) states that “when you cast a figment or glamer spell, you can choose to weave a thread of nightmare phantasm into it as a free action. The spell gains the phantasm descriptor. Each time any enemy attempts a Will Save to disbelieve the affected phantasm spell, a tiny portion of the spell transforms into a phantasm effect that targets the enemy. The enemy becomes shaken for one round (no save). This ability has no other effect on the original spell’s duration or effectiveness.” (Emphasis mine).Player’s Handbook
(Pg 139) states that the time impact of a free action “is so minor that they are considered free. You can perform one or more free actions while taking another action normally.”
Thus, you can apply a Nightmare Phantasm to Silent Image (which is a figment), gaining the phantasm descriptor. Not replacing, but gaining. A disbelief Saving throw is added or the enemy becomes shaken. Note that Nightmare Phantasm has no other effect on the original spell’s duration or effectiveness. From there, you apply a Shadow Illusion, making it now a Phantasm, capable of dealing real damage.
From there, Spirit Chill kicks in: Creatures affected by a fear effect you cause (whether by a spell, class feature, or other effect) take nonlethal damage as well, depending on the potency of the fear created. Any creature that is shaken takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage.
From there, Fell Frighten kicks in: You can alter a spell that deals damage to foes so that any creature subject to fear effects and mind-affecting spells and abilities that is dealt damage also becomes shaken for a minute.End Result
Any time you cast a Fell Frightening Silent Image, the enemy also becomes frightened, since they have two fear effects, which escalate, resulting in a frightening effect.
But, the problem is the pesky high Will Save enemies that just always seem to make their save. Well, why don’t we add in Infuse Figment. There is no indication of time required to infuse the figment, other than expending a turn attempt. If we do this, the DC is increased by 10. That's rather a lot.
Oh, and if we use our Fearful Empowerment, they get a Will Save or that frightening just turned into a panic. We can only use this twice per day.Other Thoughts
You will have noticed that, apart from the few spells required for the build, very few specific points about this build have been nailed down. The reliance on Illusion spells has been noted; it follows that Evocation and Conjuration would be the prohibited schools. Focussed Specialist, from Complete Mage, is certainly an option.
Certainly, another level of Sublime Chord doesn’t hurt, either.