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Gaming Advice / Controlling two (or more) bodies at once, directly.
« on: November 17, 2013, 01:17:24 AM »
Other than the Dvati race, is there any way to control two or more bodies at once?  I've been trying to find something like this for a while, but pretty much all the methods I have found involve losing control of the first body as it's made dormant or otherwise rendered inactive.  What I'm looking for is some means by which a single character can receive sensory input and have direct control from two or more bodies at once.  Indirect control (even if absolute) doesn't count; the character must receive full sensory input directly from both bodies and control them exactly as if it were their own body.

Handbook Discussion / Discussion: The Binder's Summon List and Spellbook
« on: February 28, 2013, 08:08:07 PM »
The Binder's Summon List and Spellbook

It's likely I've made some poor recommendations, or missed some really good ones, so commentary and anything to improve the guide will be welcome here.

Handbooks / The Binder's Summon List and Spellbook
« on: February 28, 2013, 07:31:17 PM »
The Binder’s Summon List and Spellbook

"You want me to open a door?  That's it?  Oh.  And lift the chair too."

At level 10 (it is of course assumed that all binders have the Improved Binding feat and can thus bind level 6 vestiges at EBL 10), binders get access to Zceryll, which gives them the Summon Alien ability.  This is a supernatural ability, it defaults to a standard action, is usable once every 5 rounds, and doesn’t provoke an attack of opportunity or a concentration check.  It allows the binder to summon any creature from the summon monster list that a sorcerer of her level could summon.  The creatures summoned all gain the pseudonatural template.  Since they are summoned by a supernatural ability, dispel magic cannot dismiss these summons.  The two limitations on the ability are that once used, it can’t be re-used for five rounds, and the binder cannot summon anything that could not have the pseudonatural template applied to it, which basically means, only incorporeal things are ineligible.  Another major advantage that a binder has is that while a caster with these spells often has to choose between summons, a binder doesn’t.  They can summon any creature that a sorcerer of her level could summon, so a binder doesn’t have to choose between creatures like a sorcerer or wizard would.  Only occasionally is this significant, but when it is it’s pretty nice.

Note: By RAW, the summon has no duration.  It allows the binder to summon a creature from the summon monster list, but there is no wording of duplicating summon monster, and no duration listed in the text of the ability.  By RAW, the creatures thus summoned stay around until banished or killed.  Note that this is a really bad interpretation.  It also causes problems for the binder, because by this interpretation, there is also no wording that gives the binder any sort of control over the summoned monster.  They are capable of summoning the monster, but it is under no compulsion to follow the binder’s directions.  Therefore, because this interpretation would be of use to no one, it is suggested that this be ignored, and the ability treated exactly as summon monster, with the same duration as a sorcerer of your effective binder level. 
Note to DMs: By all means, however, if your player insists that the summon has no duration, agree then point out this little caveat; that it also grants no explicit control over the summoned monster.

Summoned monsters have many useful abilities at their disposal.  I’ve found the Legal 3.5 Summonable Monster List, which I have to credit since it’s been my main reference to see what additional monsters can be summoned, but it’s not tailored to the Binder’s particular list of pseudonatural creatures, and its write-ups and commentary are aimed at actual casters that have limited spells per day.  My intention here is to list the summons and include book and page references for them to make looking them up faster, as well as add commentary tailored to the binder, and list the spells the binder can gain access to by summoning these creatures and having them use their SLA’s.  The list may be somewhat useful to other casters, but it will intentionally omit any creature that cannot have the pseudonatural template applied to it, and it will judge the usefulness of these monsters based on the fact that a binder can summon them every 5 rounds indefinitely, rather than having to expend spell slots on them.  The alignment of these creatures is also ignored, since it is irrelevant to the binder.

All creatures with the pseudonatural template have a minimum intelligence of 3.  According to page 7 of the Monster Manual, "Any creature with an intelligence score of 3 or higher understands at least one language (Common, unless noted otherwise)."  That means that every single creature a binder summons can understand at least one language, even if they can't speak it, and they are therefore valid targets for Telepathy to communicate with.  A binder can always give specific commands to their summoned creatures in this manner.

It has also been brought to my attention that Rules Compendium changed the rules on spell-like ability casting times.  Any spell-like ability with a casting time greater than one standard action is, according to the entry on page 118 of the Rules Compendium, reduced to a 1 standard action casting time, unless specifically noted in the entry.  Some of my comments on high casting time spells therefore don't apply, and will be edited relatively soon.

Finally, it's also been brought to my attention that the Summoning subschool imposes restrictions on summoned monsters that I failed to take into account earlier.  There are apparently arguments as to whether the subschool's restrictions function against spell-like abilities.  The most concerning limitation is that "When the spell that summoned a creature ends and the creature disappears, all the spells it has cast expire."  Many DMs do not seem to observe this limitation, and if yours doesn't, that's all well and good.  If they do, however, you might argue the loophole that a spell-like ability is not actually a spell it the summoned monster has cast.  Or simply accept the ruling and realize that summoned monsters aren't ever going to be able to buff for more than rounds/level.  In any case, I'll be adding extra notes to all my entries over time in order to address this issue and adjust monster recommendations accordingly.  Do note, of course, that any spells with a duration of instantaneous are still perfectly useful from summoned monsters regardless of this - they have no effect that can expire.

Other useful resources:
Cagemarrow's excellent list of pseudonatural summon monster stat blocks makes it easy to come up with the stats of your newly summoned creature; he's done all the work of applying the template for you in most cases.
Pluto's guide, The Summoner's Desk Reference, has additional useful information and commentary.  It's tailored primarily toward those who cast the spells rather than to a binder, but still has a lot of good comments.

Discussion thread, for commentary, errors, and suggestions: Discussion: The Binder's Summon List and Spellbook

CL: Caster Level
DC: Difficulty Class
DM: Dungeon Master
EBL: Effective Binder Level
RAW: Rules as Written
SLA: Spell-Like Ability

Summon Monster I
This list is available as soon as the binder gains EBL 10 and has access to Zceryll.

Fiendish Dire Rat|64 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Badger|268 and 31 Monster Manual
Celestial Dog|271 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Hawk|273 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Monkey|276 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Octopus|276 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Owl|277 and 31 Monster Manual
Celestial Porpoise|278 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Raven|278 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Snake, Small Viper|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Giant Fire Beetle|285 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Centipede, Medium|287 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Scorpion, Small|287 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Spider, Small|288 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Crab, Small|141 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Diving Spider, Small|169 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Sea Snake, Small|170 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Elysian Thrush|118 Planar Handbook

Commentary on Summon Monster I
For a binder, nothing here is at all useful.  Really, I might as well not even have bothered putting this spell on the list; it’s here only for completeness’ sake.  None of these monsters have powerful special abilities, any spell-like abilities, or anything unique to recommend them at all.  Since a binder does not use spell slots, she has no need to use low-level slots on things of lesser importance; she can always summon her most powerful monsters and use them even for the most minor of tasks.

Summon Monster II
This list is available as soon as the binder gains EBL 10 and has access to Zceryll.

Baatezu, Lemure|57 Monster Manual
Celestial Riding Dog|272 and 31 Monster Manual
Celestial Eagle|272 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Shark, Medium|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Snake, Medium Viper|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Squid|281 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Wolf|283 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Giant Bee|284 and 31 Monster Manual
Celestial Giant Bombardier Beetle|284 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Centipede, Large|287 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Scorpion, Medium|287 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Spider, Medium|288 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Diving Spider, Medium|169 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Sea Snake, Medium|170 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Clockwork Mender|30 Monster Manual IV
Ur’Epona|131 Planar Handbook
Nerra, Varoot|130 Fiend Folio
Kaorti|108 Fiend Folio

Commentary on Summon Monster II
These creatures are mostly useless to the binder because again, the binder can simply summon higher level things.  The clockwork mender has one ability worthy of note, even to the binder, in its ability to repair things.  Due to the limitation on teleportation and planar travel abilities inherent in summon spells, Ur’Epona unfortunately doesn’t provide the binder with an easy means of plane shift.  The Varoot again has a problem with the limitation on teleportation and planar abilities – if not for this, they would have some utility as scouts.  The Kaorti has useful spell-like abilities, the first ones that the binder might see much use for.

Clockwork Mender
This creature has one ability of note: its Repairing Touch ability repairs 1d8 points of damage to a construct or object, once per day.  Since a binder can use their summon ability every 5 rounds, for a warforged binder this can mean a 1d8 heal every 5 rounds without wasting any expendable resources.  For any other binder, it’s also a useful way to repair other objects or constructs when needed.

These creatures have several useful abilities that a binder might choose to summon one for.  They have several spell-like abilities that can be used both in and out of combat: alter self (CL2), color spray (DC15, CL2), feather fall (CL2), ray of enfeeblement (CL2), reduce (DC15, CL2), and spider climb (CL2).  The summoning subschool's limitation on spells cast by summoned creatures limits some of the usefulness further.  If a binder can summon the kaorti as a standard action mid-fall, then have it cast feather fall on her, it might save her, but this is an incredibly niche situation.  Reduce, which can presumably be assumed to become reduce person, can help a binder squeeze through a smaller space than they could normally fit, but the short duration due to summon subschool limitation must be kept in mind.  Spider climb similarly can be used to access a troublesome spot, as long as that spot can be reached before the summoning expires.

Spell durations expire independently of summon: Under this situation, spider climb and reduce person become considerably more useful; they last 20 and 2 minutes respectively, and the former can be used to access unusual locations and possibly hide in preparation for a soon-to-come ambush.

Summon Monster II Spell List
Color Spray|Kaorti (DC15, CL2)
Feather Fall|Kaorti (CL2)
Ray of Enfeeblement|Kaorti (CL2)
Reduce Person|Kaorti (DC15, CL2)
Spider Climb|Kaorti (CL2)

Summon Monster II Self-Only Spells
Alter Self|Kaorti (CL2)
Disguise Self|Varoot (DC14, CL12)
Mirror Image|Varoot (CL12)

Summon Monster III
This list is available as soon as the binder gains EBL 10 and has access to Zceryll.

Tanar’ri, Dretch|42 Monster Manual
Celestial Dire Badger|62 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Bat|62 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Weasel|65 and 107 Monster Manual
Elemental, Small|95 Monster Manual
Hell Hound|151 Monster Manual
Celestial Hippogriff|152 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Ape|268 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Black Bear|269 and 31 Monster Manual
Celestial Bison|269 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Boar|270 Monster Manual
Fiendish Crocodile|271 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Snake, Constrictor|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Snake, Large Viper|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Wolverine|283 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Centipede, Huge|287 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Sea Snake, Large|170 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Nashrou|44 Monster Manual IV
Windblade, Windrazor|176 Monster Manual IV
Bariaur|165 Book of Exalted Deeds
Coure Eladrin|168 Book of Exalted Deeds
Guardinal, Musteval|174 Book of Exalted Deeds
Bacchae|18 Fiend Folio
Kalabon|121 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells

Commentary on Summon Monster III
Some of these monsters are starting to become potentially useful.  The small elementals have a few limited uses, such as earth glide on earth elementals, but the binder is unlikely to use this summon level’s elementals – small size might occasionally be useful for stealth if using them to scout, though. The coure eladrin is a tremendous little scout with a lot of usefulness – it’s not inherently incorporeal, but it can become so.  The musteval can be relied upon for a few spell-like abilities, to render the binder or an ally invisible, and to discover the presence of invisible monsters.  The bacchae is sadly barely worth mentioning – while it has good abilities, these have limited usefulness to the binder.

Elemental, Small
Some dungeon masters will argue that elementals are not corporeal; especially air elementals.  However, as far as I can determine, anything without the incorporeal subtype is by default, corporeal.  This means that elementals, lacking the incorporeal subtype, are valid targets for summon alien.  Small elementals are of limited usefulness.  Earth elementals are good for their earth glide ability, a fire elemental is useful for commiting arson, but generally speaking there are better creatures for most of these functions.  Plus, a binder will always have higher elementals available – medium elementals from Summon Monster V are available at the earliest level that Zceryll can be bound, so there’s likely no use for the small ones, unless one wants to send a small earth elemental through a wall and hope its size helps it hide from anything it’s scouting.  If the DM rules that elementals are incorporeal, though, these are off the list.

Eladrin, Coure
The coure is a highly useful summon for the binder – its natural form is corporeal, qualifying it for the pseudonatural template, but it is able to assume an incorporeal alternate form.  This makes them one of the best possible scout creatures to summon; a coure can pass through most walls and then report back to their summoner.  In addition to this highly useful ability, they have a few useful spell-like abilities: dancing lights (CL4), detect evil (CL4), detect magic (CL4), and faerie fire (CL4) are all usable at will, while magic missile (CL4) and sleep (DC13, CL4) are usable 3/day.  The latter two will rarely be of use to a binder, but the at-will abilities are all useful to one degree or another.  A binder should keep in mind that faerie fire doesn’t require an actual target.  If she suspects there’s an invisible or hidden creature lurking somewhere, a coure can light up 5-foot bursts and potentially catch the enemy in it.  Dancing lights is also highly useful as a signal.  By prearranging specific colors and patterns with allies, communication at significant distances can be achieved.

Guardinal, Musteval
The musteval, at 2HD, is still a useless summon for direct combat, but it possesses a number of potentially useful spell-like abilities: detect evil (CL3), detect magic (CL3), disguise self (CL3), magic missile (CL3), protection from evil (self only, CL3), and see invisibility (CL3) can all be cast at will, while it can cast invisibility (CL3) once per day.  Detect evil and detect magic along with see invisibility make the musteval a solid scout creature, and since they’re fully intelligent and able to speak, they can report back in detail about what they saw.  Summon duration limits this to a short distance ahead, but it can still be a tremendous boon.  Since it’s self only, their protection from evil is less useful than it otherwise might be, but could have some tactical uses.  And if nothing else, it makes them a little more survivable as a scout.  Since their invisibility spell is not self-only, a musteval can use this on the binder or a companion; the duration can be an issue, but even at the minimum level a binder will have to summon Zceryll, it will last a minute or more.

Spell durations expire independently of summon: The musteval's invisibility goes up in duration to three minutes, making it slightly more useful, but overall doesn't change much.

This summon has a solid list of offensive spell-like abilities, but they’re all limited use: charm person (DC12, CL7), and Tasha’s hideous laughter (DC13, CL7) can be used three times per day, while emotion (DC15, CL7) can only be used once per day.  The DC for these spells is low by the time a binder gets access to this summon.  Worse, the emotion spell has been split up into several different spells in 3.5, and it’s not clear which spell this would be replaced with.  Charm person makes the target friendly toward the caster, which in this case is the summoned bacchae, which complicates things even for the short duration the creature is around and the spell in effect…and if spell durations are ruled to expire independently of the summon, it’s just as bad, since the charmed creature is friendly toward the bacchae, not the binder.  And Tasha’s hideous laughter is an excellent spell, but with a DC of only 13, it’s unlikely to work well at the level the binder could be summoning the bacchae at.  Therefore, this summon does not come highly recommended.

Summon Monster III Spell List
Charm Person|Bacchae (DC12, CL7)
Dancing Lights|Coure (CL4)
Emotion|Bacchae (DC15, CL7)
Faerie Fire|Coure (CL4)
Invisibility|Musteval (CL3)
Magic Missile|Coure (CL4); Musteval (CL3)
Scare|Dretch (DC12, CL2)
Sleep|Coure (DC13, CL4)
Stinking Cloud|Dretch (DC12, CL2)
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter|Bacchae (DC13, CL7)

Summon Monster III Self-Only Spells
Detect Evil|Coure (CL4); Musteval (CL3)
Detect Magic|Coure (CL4); Musteval (CL3)
Disguise Self|Musteval (DC12, CL3)
Protection from Evil|Musteval (CL3)
See Invisibility|Musteval (CL3)

Summon Monster IV
This list is available as soon as the binder gains EBL 10 and has access to Zceryll.

Lantern Archon|16 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Wolf|65 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Giant Eagle|93 and 31 Monster Manual
Howler|154 Monster Manual
Mephit|180 Monster Manual; 175 Sandstorm
Celestial Giant Owl|205 and 31 Monster Manual
Yeth Hound|260 Monster Manual
Celestial Lion|274 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Shark, Large|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Snake, Huge Viper|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Giant Praying Mantis|285 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Giant Wasp|285 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Spider, Large|288 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Eel|148 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Diving Spider, Large|169 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Sea Snake, Huge|170 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Guardinal, Cervidal|42 Monster Manual II
Storm Elemental, Small|48 Monster Manual III
Wrackspawn|182 Monster Manual IV
Yugoloth, Voor|193 Monster Manual IV
Arcadian Avenger|8 Monster Manual V
Carnage Demon|22 Monster Manual V
Tanar’ri, Gadacro|26 Monster Manual V
Rhek|181 Book of Exalted Deeds
Elemental Grue|153 Complete Arcane
Baatezu, White Abishai|110 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells
Baatezu, Spinagon|136 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells
Aoa Droplet|15 Fiend Folio
Demon, Skulvyn|54 Fiend Folio
Bloodbag Imp|98 Fiend Folio
Euphoric Imp|99 Fiend Folio
Filth Imp|100 Fiend Folio
Nerra, Kalareem|128 Fiend Folio
Yugoloth, Skeroloth|197 Fiend Folio
Lesser Nightmare|127 Planar Handbook

Commentary on Summon Monster IV
There are certainly a lot of creatures here, and several worth mentioning.  The Lantern Archon can provide illumination when needed through either its own light (which has no specified radius, so discuss with your DM) or its continual light spells.  Mephits have a variety of spells; gust of wind and wind wall are useful utility, but the sulfur mephit with haboob and stinking cloud definitely wins between them all.  The cervidal is useful for its poison detection and curing, and with the pseudonatural true strike and its CL of 20, it can also affect one enemy with dismissal almost guaranteed, making it pretty effective, and it has an anti-illusion ability that may or may not totally defeat spells like mirror image; it should, but RAW seems unclear.  The disgusting bloodbag imp provides a very strange sort of healing, its cousin the euphoric imp gives access to powerful illusions, if the binder can keep it under control and doing precisely as directed.  The elemental grue can dispel any spell any elemental spell of its element cast by a caster of its level or lower; it just needs to keep using free actions until it rolls a 20 on its dispel check.  And the gadacro may be one of the first broadly-applicable in-combat summons, as its 5-round no-save blind effect combined with pseudonatural true strike means that if it can sneak attack, it can blind something.

Lantern Archon
These guys are decent utility summons in order to see in the dark, and for a minor buff.  Their spell-like abilities are: aid, detect evil, and continual light.  All are at-will, and cast at CL3.  The Aura of Menace is worth mentioning, but the DC is too low to be useful to a binder; whenever they’re in combat, any hostile creature within a 20 foot radius must succeed at a DC12 will save or take a -2 penalty to attacks, AC, and saves for 24 hours or until they successfully hit the archon that generated the aura.  The DC is too low, and the archon too easy to hit for this to be particularly useful at the level a binder gains access to Zceryll, but this is something to keep in mind for all higher-level 'Archon' summons - they all have this ability, at varying DCs.  It should be noted that this is not a spell, and therefore unambiguously does not fall under the summoning subschool’s restriction of spells being dismissed when the summon expires; anyone affected by this will be affected for the full 24 hours if the archon gets dismissed without the target hitting it.  They’re also worth mentioning because of their magic circle against evil which is a constant effect they have surrounding them at all times.  They also have tongues in effect on them at all time, but this is of little concern to the binder with Zceryll, since that means having constant telepathy in order to communicate directly with anything that has a language.

Spell durations expire independently of summon: Continual light at will means being able to summon one of these guys and it can make anything glow, permanently, and since it’s an at-will spell-like ability, it has no material component cost, unlike the spell version.  Sell castings of it below-cost, and a binder can corner the market, make tons of money because in most places, everyone needs light, and make things better for people in the process.  Also good for the binder’s own stuff; she can keep a whole bunch of items enchanted with continual light and pull them out whenever lighting is needed.  One of these guys can cast it on every single one of a bag of marbles, for instance.  These lights can be used to mark a path, drop down dark places, a wide variety of useful applications – they’re pretty much free.  And since a binder can summon one of these guys at-will anytime, if she runs out, that’s no problem…she can pick up the nearest rock or pebble and summon one to enchant it.

This is actually ten different summons – air, dust, earth, fire, ice, magma, ooze, salt, steam, and water.  There are six other mephit types that are missing from the Monster Manual description, one for each unmentioned Inner Plane: smoke, mineral, lightning, radiance, vacuum, and ash, and if stats exist for those (I have not seen any), it should be possible to summon them as well.  Each mephit comes with spell-like abilities, some of which are useful, others not so much.  All of these have use-limitations that make them once per summon, unless otherwise noted.  Air has blur (CL3) and gust of wind (DC14, CL6), the latter of which can be useful if dispersing a fog effect of some kind is needed.  Dust has blur (CL3) and wind wall (DC15, CL6), and the latter is nice if in order to prevent archers from hitting the binder, her allies, or an area.  Earth has soften earth and stone (CL6) and a change size ability.  The spell could be moderately useful in certain situations, but it doesn’t function on worked stone.  Still, a foundation can be destabilized with this.  Fire has scorching ray (DC14, CL3) and heat metal (DC14, CL6).  Ice has magic missile (CL3) and chill metal (DC14, CL6).  Neither of these has much to offer a binder by the time they get access to Zceryll.  The magma mephit has the odd ability to change into a pool of lava; it gains DR 20/magic, and can use its pyrotechnics (DC14) with itself as the source, but it’s implied that it can’t melt through ordinary stone, and there isn’t even damage listed for coming into contact with it.  This is likely to be of no real use, unless the DM rules otherwise.  Ooze has Melf’s acid arrow (CL3) and stinking cloud (DC15, CL6).  Unlike the dretch’s stinking cloud, the ooze mephit’s is actually likely to be somewhat useful; the DC is still low, but it lasts six rounds.  The water mephit has identical spell-likes – their only diverging point is their breath weapon, where ooze’s imposes a penalty to AC and saving throws, while water simply has more damage.  Steam mephits just have blur (CL3) and a 2d6 area damage ability that doesn’t directly copy a spell.
In addition to the Monster Manual mephits, there are also two mephits in Sandstorm.  The glass mephit has blur (CL3) and heat metal (CL3).  Unlike the Monster Manual mephits, the glass mephit can cast heat metal twice within a single summon period; not that that makes it any more likely to be useful.  The sulfur mephit, on the other hand, has haboob (DC15, CL6) and stinking cloud (DC15, CL6).  This makes it great for controlling vision and softening up enemies on the approach; haboob is a minute per level spell that’s essentially a ‘fog’ that also does 3d4 damage automatically, with no save, to anyone passing through it.  There’s a save for half damage if haboob is cast on top of someone, but none for those that voluntarily enter the cloud.

Guardinal, Cervidal
Although they only have 4 hit die, their spell-like abilities are cast at CL9.  That’s pretty nice for some of these spells: bless (CL9), command (DC14, CL9), detect poison (CL9), and light (CL9) at will.  Hold person (DC16, CL9), magic missile (CL9), and suggestion (DC16, CL9) once per day.  Command works out to DC 14, so there are better things to do in combat, but if a cervidal happens to still be summoned when combat breaks out, it can at least force a saving throw; there’s always the chance to fail.  Detect poison is a useful ability –a binder can always have a personal food checker at her disposal; she would be well advised to never eat or drink anything without summoning a cervidal to cast detect poison first.  Hold person has a somewhat respectable but still low DC of 16, but again, if a cervidal happens to be available in a fight, one might as well have him toss out the spell and force a saving throw.  Magic missile at CL9 will do 5d4+5 damage – not exactly impressive.  But if something incorporeal is being an annoyance and there are limited other means to harm it, it might be worth a summon in order to fire off as a force effect.  Suggestion is a useful spell to have at one’s disposal, even at DC16.
In addition to their spell-like abilities, cervidals also have a few ‘Horn Powers’ as they’re called.  These are supernatural abilities that function when they touch things with their horns.  Neutralize poison (CL20) and remove disease (CL20) are extremely useful abilities to have on tap.  If a binder failed to summon a cervidal to detect the poison, she can summon one afterward to neutralize it.  And they can cure a variety of diseases.  They can also dispel illusions; this ability functions as a targeted dispel magic (CL20) vs. the illusion.  It’s a little unclear on how it works.  For instance, if an enemy has greater mirror image cast and the cervidal attacks with its horns, hitting the illusion…does the dispel illusions function trigger?  It sounds like it should, but the DM may decide that the horn attack needs to hit the actual subject of the spell.  The horns can also dismiss summoned and extraplanar creatures as if by a dismissal (DC18, CL20) spell.  It has to hit an enemy with its horns in order to manage the dismissal, but once again the pseudonatural template’s true strike ability comes in handy here, and should all but guarantee a successful hit.

Spell durations expire independently of summon: At CL9, bless is something a cervidal can be summoned to cast well before trouble is expected, since it lasts 9 minutes.

Bloodbag Imp
Bloodbag imps are one of the most disgusting things in the game.  It’s an imp that can be popped to drink its blood to regain one hit point per round, but neither the drinker nor the imp can take any other actions during the round.  The imp loses 2 hit points for each one the drinker regains, but it has regeneration so it’s only subdual damage for the imp.  It’s…not the most efficient method of healing, really.  It’s even a supernatural ability, so it can’t be used in an antimagic field or something (not that the summoned imp could enter such a field in the first place).  If there’s any other method of healing available, it’s probably better, unless one just really, really wants to gross someone out.  The only spell-likes the bloodbag has are of questionable usefulness, or they’re self only: detect good (CL6), detect magic (CL6), invisibility (self only, CL6), and vampiric touch (DC14, CL6).  The last of those is 1/day, the rest are at will.

Euphoric Imp
These guys are more useful than their bloodbag cousins.  They have a DC12 fort based sting attack that dazes the target for 2d6 rounds.  Probably not worth summoning them for, but if a binder happens to have one out for its other feature, it can at least force some saves…if it can hit (again, true strike is handy).  They also have spell-likes, almost the same list as the bloodbag, with one significant change: detect good (CL6), detect magic (CL6), invisibility (self only, CL6) and major image (DC13, CL6).  That last one is 1/day, but it’s also a pretty big deal, because being able to pull out a major image when it’s needed is significant.  But, there are potential pitfalls: the summoned imp is in control of the image, not the binder.  She’s got to keep it concentrating and make sure it does exactly what she want, and since it’s evil, the DM is likely to determine that if the binder gives it leeway in its instructions, it’ll try to screw her.  Fortunately Zceryll comes with telepathy, so if someone is summoning this guy she can telepathically instruct him rather than jabber to him while trying to fool someone.

Elemental Grue
These guys have an interesting ability.  Any spellcaster within 40 feet of them has to succeed on a DC15 caster level check in order to cast a spell of the same element as them.  So, a mage that is known to chuck fire spells, summoning up a fire grue can make those spells a little harder for him to cast.  Unfortunately, DC15 CL check is pathetically low for the level a binder gets to summon these guys at.  Also, any ongoing spell of their element near them, they can try to dispel as a free action, as if casting targeted dispel magic at CL10.  Now, this seems like an odd ability because they may as well have just said that it automatically succeeds if a CL10 dispel check can dispel it, because as a free action, the grue can just do it over and over again in the same round until it succeeds.

Tanar’ri, Gadacro
The gadacro might have enough abilities to make it useful in combat, if used effectively.  If it gets off a sneak attack or manages to crit, the enemy is blinded for 5 rounds, no save.  That’s pretty nice, and if there’s a way of making sure it can get those sneak attacks off, it’s a very solid debuff.  Since the binder’s summon alien ability makes anything it summons pseudonatural, it has a 1/day true strike ability, and it can use that to ensure that it hits on its sneak attack.  It’s also got an immediate action that can move it away from damage.  The wording is unfortunately less than clear; immediate actions are usually interrupts to the action that triggered them, but its ability is worded “If an gadacro takes damage from a melee attack, it can, as an immediate action, disappear…” which suggests that it actually needs to take damage and the immediate action can’t interrupt the attack that would have damaged it.  At the very least, this saves it from being full attacked, though.  Unless this ability falls under teleports or planar travel, and the DM decides that a summoned gadacro doesn’t get it at all.
In addition to the already strong no-save blinding debuff, the gadacro has earthbind (DC13, CL4) which grounds fliers if they fail their save.  It’s a low save, unfortunately, but if anything can be done to debuff the target’s fortitude save, it can significantly alter the balance of power in a fight involving flying enemies.

Spell durations expire independently of summon: The duration of earthbind goes up to four minutes, but if you manage to land this spell on a flying enemy, there’s rarely a reason it shouldn’t be dead in less than 10 rounds, so it doesn’t alter the spell’s effectiveness much.

Summon Monster IV Spell List
Aid|Lantern Archon (CL3)
Bless|Cervidal (CL9)
Burning Hands|Yugoloth, Skeroloth (CL4)
Charm Person|White Abishai (DC12, CL4)
Chill Metal|Ice Mephit (DC14, CL6)
Command|Cervidal (DC14, CL9); White Abishai (DC12, CL4)
Continual Light|Lantern Archon (CL3)
Daze|Yugoloth, Skeroloth (CL4)
Dismissal|Cervidal (DC18, CL20)
Dispel Magic|Aoa Droplet (CL7)
Earthbind|Tanar’ri, Gadacro (DC13, CL4)
Glitterdust|Salt Mephit (DC14, CL3)
Gust of Wind|Air Mephit (DC14, CL6)
Haboob|Sulfur Mephit (DC15, CL6)
Heat Metal|Fire Mephit (DC14, CL6); Glass Mephit (CL3)
Hold Person|Cervidal (DC16, CL9)
Jump|Yugoloth, Skeroloth (CL4)
Light|Cervidal (CL9)
Magic Missile|Cervidal (CL9), Ice Mephit (CL3)
Major Image|Euphoric Imp (CL6)
Melf’s Acid Arrow|Ooze Mephit (CL3); Water Mephit (CL3)
Neutralize Poison|Cervidal (CL20)
Produce Flame|Spinagon (CL3)
Pyrotechnics|Magma Mephit (DC14)
Remove Disease|Cervidal (CL20)
Scare|White Abishai (DC13, CL4)
Scorching Ray|Fire Mephit (DC14, CL3)
Soften Earth and Stone|Earth Mephit (CL6)
Stinking Cloud|Ooze Mephit (DC15, CL6); Water Mephit (DC15, CL6); Sulfur Mephit (DC15, CL6); Spinagon (DC14, CL3); Filth Imp (CL6)
Suggestion|Cervidal (DC16, CL9)
Vampiric Touch|Bloodbag Imp (CL6)
Wind Wall|Dust Mephit (DC14, CL6)

Summon Monster IV Self-Only Spells
Blur|Air Mephit (CL3); Dust Mephit (CL3); Steam Mephit (CL3); Glass Mephit (CL3)
Detect Chaos|Rhek (CL5)
Detect Evil|Lantern Archon (CL3)
Detect Good|Bloodbag Imp (CL6); Euphoric Imp (CL6); Filth Imp (CL6); Yugoloth, Skeroloth (CL4)
Detect Magic|Aoa Droplet (CL15); Bloodbag Imp (CL6); Euphoric Imp (CL6); Filth Imp (CL6)
Detect Poison|Cervidal (CL9)
Disguise Self|White Abishai (DC13, CL5); Baatezu, Spinagon (DC12, CL5)
Enlarge Person|Earth Mephit
Expeditious Retreat|Yugoloth, Skeroloth (CL4)
Invisibility|Bloodbag Imp (CL6); Euphoric Imp (CL6); Filth Imp (CL6)
Magic Circle against Evil|Lantern Archon (CL1)
Mirror Image|Tanar’ri, Gadacro (CL4); Nerra, Kalareem (DC13, CL12)
Tongues|Lantern Archon (CL14)

Summon Monster V
This list is available as soon as the binder gains EBL 10 and has access to Zceryll.

Achaierai|9 Monster Manual
Hound Archon|16 Monster Manual
Baatezu, Barbazu|52 Monster Manual
Fiendish Deinonychus|60 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Ape|62 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Boar|63 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Wolverine|66 and 107 Monster Manual
Elemental, Medium|95 Monster Manual
Celestial Griffon|139 and 31 Monster Manual
Celestial Sea Cat|220 and 31 Monster Manual
Shadow Mastiff|222 Monster Manual
Celestial Brown Bear|269 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Giant Crocodile|271 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Shark, Huge|279 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Tiger|281 and 107 Monster Manual
Celestial Giant Stag Beetle|285 and 31 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Scorpion, Large|287 and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Monstrous Crab, Large|141 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Fiendish Dire Barracuda|147 Stormwrack and 107 Monster Manual
Leskylor|177 Book of Exalted Deeds
Baatezu, Black Abishai|109 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells

Commentary on Summon Monster V
Well, this is it.  The highest level summon monster that’s available immediately upon gaining access to Zceryll.  It’s also the first level I bothered to write in commentary about combat monsters, because lower level ones are pointless to summon for combat.  The absolute star of this level is the leskylor, who has powerful combat applications along with flight and a slew of spell-like abilities, including healing with a single shot of cure moderate wounds.  Really, if this level consisted only of the leskylor, it still wouldn’t be a bad summon monster level for a binder.  The fiendish giant crocodile is the highest grappler at this level, but the monstrous crab has constrict.  Both are solid choices if something needs to be grappled.  The celestial griffon is totally outclassed by the leskylor.  The hound archon and barbazu are primarily choices for when there simply isn’t room to have a large monster on the field for combat.  The barbazu’s reach with its glaive, along with its 2hp/round bleeding damage make it the most effective summon in such places.

Hound Archon
This is a pretty decent summon for combat when a binder first gets access to Zceryll.  They carry greatswords and attack at +8 with 2d6+3 damage.  Their full attack also includes their bite.  They can cast aid at will at CL6, so they can buff themselves and others before combat.  And their magic circle against evil helps the whole party, assuming the enemies being faced are evil.  They have an Aura of Menace just like lantern archons, except the save is a more respectable DC 16 will save – a decent number of enemies are likely to fail this one.  All-around, the hound archon is a solid combatant for a binder at EBL 10-11.

Baatezu, Barbazu
The barbazu is another solid combatant for EBL 10.  It lacks any of the hound archon’s magical accompaniments, but brings with it a glaive that gives it 10 foot reach, and automatically causes 2hp/round of bleeding damage if it hits, without a saving throw.  It can also go into a battle frenzy, effectively raging like a barbarian; its +9/+4 full attack bumps up to +11/+6, does 1d10+5 damage, and gives it an extra 12 hit points to work with.  If the enemies the binder is fighting aren’t evil, this is almost definitely a better choice than the hound archon.  Even if they are evil, it’s still probably superior.  But as a Zceryll-bound binder, one doesn’t have to pick – summon the hound archon to buff, then summon the barbazu upon entering combat.  To be extra funny, make the archon buff the barbazu.

Elemental, Medium
We’re up to medium elementals, and…well, they still kind of suck.  There’s not a lot to say about these guys.  If a binder needs to summon an earth elemental for earth glide, or set things on fire, or put out fires, they’re here.  Otherwise, this is a very skippable summon at this level.

Celestial Griffon
The griffon has 20 feet slower move speed than a hippogriff.  In exchange, they’re a lot harder to knock out from under a rider, as they have more than twice the hit points.  They also have a solid attack at +11 and 2d6+4 bite damage, and two claws attacking at +8 with 1d4+2 damage, and they have pounce, rake, and a +15 grapple.  They’re a hardy summon that, if a binder finds herself fighting a flying opponent, can be sent after the target and expect to inflict some damage, and is even solid for fighting on land.  They are, however, overshadowed by the leskylor.  See below.

Fiendish Giant Crocodile
A bite at +11 attack, doing 2d8+12 damage makes these guys a credible melee threat, but for melee a binder is probably better off summoning something else.  This summon’s best feature is its +21 grapple check and improved grab.  So when it hits with that +11 attack and deals its damage, it also grapples the target.  When a binder needs somebody grappled at these levels, this is probably their best summon.

Fiendish Monstrous Crab, Large
Of course, while the giant crocodile has a better grapple check, the monstrous crab has Constrict.  If a +17 grapple check is enough for the situation, the monstrous crab will deal 2d8+5 damage every round while it’s got a target grappled.  So, the crab can pin the binder’s enemy and constrict them to death all at the same time.  This makes the monstrous crab a very solid choice for grappling when the absolute highest grapple check of the level isn’t needed.

The leskylor deserves a lot of special mention because it’s the only thing on the binder’s list at EBL 10 that can cast a healing spell.  It can cast cure moderate wounds once per day at CL6.  Since a binder can use summon alien once every five rounds with no limit, that means she can heal out of combat with no difficulty.  In-combat, since the spell is only once per day for the leskylor, it’s far less effective.  Not that they’re not a combat summon.  Indeed, if there’s room to summon a large creature, the leskylor is probably the premier combat summon at this level.  Everything I said about the griffon also goes for the leskylor, except it’s also got spell-likes, an intelligence of 15, the ability to communicate, a breath weapon, improved grab, flyby attack, and the touch of golden ice feat that causes any evil creature touched by them to succeed at a DC14 save or be hit with a 1d6/2d6 dex poison, on every attack.  Since the leskylor’s attack sequence is claw/claw/bite, that’s 3 saves per round if it connects with all its attacks.  There are other decent combatants at this level, but the leskylor far outstrips them all in ability.  An evil binder needs to be careful with it though, since touching it will force the poison saves on its summoner just as much as on enemies.

Summon Monster V Spell List
Aid|Hound Archon (CL6)
Cause Fear|Leskylor (DC12, CL6)
Charm Person|Black Abishai (DC12, CL5)
Command|Black Abishai (DC12, CL5)
Continual Light|Hound Archon (CL6)
Cure Moderate Wounds|Leskylor (DC13, CL6)
Eyes of the Avoral|Leskylor (CL6)
Hold Person|Leskylor (DC13, CL6)
Obscuring Mist|Leskylor (CL6)
Scare|Black Abishai (DC13, CL5)
Suggestion|Black Abishai (DC14, CL5)
Vision of Heaven|Leskylor (DC12, CL6)
Wrack|Black Abishai (DC16, CL5)

Summon Monster V Self-Only Spells
Blessed Sight|Leskylor (CL6)
Detect Evil|Hound Archon (CL6)
Disguise Self|Black Abishai (CL5)
Magic Circle against Evil|Hound Archon (CL6)
Message (CL6)|
Tongues|Hound Archon (CL6)

Build idea I've got so far is DN2/Binder 1/Anima Mage 10/Something Else.  I'm not sure if this is going to be a Necropolitan or not (I'm setting up the backstory so she can be, but I'm not sure I'm going to take that option).  I get one flaw, and the character will almost certainly be human (although I might consider something else if someone has a great idea).

Main thing I'm having difficulty deciding on is feat choices.  My current outline looks like this:
Level 1: Tomb-Tainted Soul, Fell Drain, Versatile Spellcaster.
Level 3: Improved Binding.
Level 6: Arcane Disciple (Transformation).

Everything else so far is open.  If I go Necropolitan, obviously, I need a replacement for Tomb-Tainted Soul.  Also, I'm not positive Fell Drain is worth it since I'm not going a full 4 levels and therefore won't get Advanced Learning, so I won't have Kelgore's Grave Mist.  Not sure if it's worth taking Fell Drain without a really good way to apply it as an area of effect.  I'd like to get some decent metamagic feats to take good advantage of the Anima Mage's Vestige Metamagic ability, but I'm really not sure what metamagics to take.  I often default to Extend/Persist, but the DN doesn't have a heck of a lot of spells that would work on.  I'm also resisting the urge to load up on a whole bunch of Arcane Disciple feats (I can make up my own god, so I can probably fit in any domains I want) because I'm not sure it's a worthwhile tradeoff with the 1/day limitation.

As for the build itself, for levels 14+ I'm not entirely sure what to take.  Been leaning toward Legacy Champion so I can extend both binding and spellcasting, which would leave me at 19th level with 17th level DN casting and 15th level binding.

D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder / Actually using divination for spell planning...
« on: December 06, 2011, 03:07:12 AM »
In many a discussion on wizards, I have seen it suggested that the wise wizard is going to use divination spells to determine what tomorrow's challenges will be and thus prepare appropriately.

However, I haven't really ever seen it explained how to accomplish this in any reliable manner.  Obviously there's some DM dependency here, but to be quite honest, even with a DM that has everything planned out in advance, accurately predicts exactly which choices the party is going to make, and doesn't try to make answers difficult to understand, I am left uncertain what questions to ask in order to figure out what spells should be prepared.  Oh, I sometimes manage to determine what creature type I might be facing, which is on occasion helpful (lots of undead?  ok, skip the mind-affecting) but in general I have never found a key question or set of questions that is highly probable to give me a very solid idea for tomorrow's spell list.

Does anyone who recommends this method of spell planning have any advice on exactly which spells to use and what questions to ask when conducting divinations for this purpose?

I've just finished going through all the books I thought of to find psionic powers, and made a complete list of them.  Key to this is that I made the list by discipline, because when I was considering what Favored Discipline(s) to pick for my Erudite, I couldn't find any power list that made it easy to determine exactly what I would get by choosing that as a favored discipline.  The powers restricted to psions of a particular discipline were easy, but favored discipline makes ALL powers of that discipline into standard psion/wilder powers, so it was much more difficult to determine what I would get from other lists, like powers that are only on the mantles, and powers from the Psychic Warrior and Lurk lists.

Therefore, here is a full list of all psionic powers from the Expanded Psionics Handbook, Complete Psionic, Secrets of Sarlona, Stormwrack, Races of Destiny, Races of Stone, Sandstorm, Weapons of Legacy, Races of the Wild, Dragon Magic, Races of the Dragon, Frostburn, Magic of Incarnum, Faiths of Eberron, Magic of Eberron, Player's Guide to Eberron, Races of Eberron, Dragon #317, and the Mind's Eye 3.5 Compilation PDF.  (Some are double-entries because I included the same power from every book it appeared in, rather than just one instance of it).

Psionic Powers by Discipline

The second unlabeled column is the level at which an erudite without Favored Discipline would normally gain access to that power.  Any powers they can't normally learn are marked as - and powers marked 10 aren't available before epic.

I may work some more on this, adding some basic descriptions and such.  If anyone has any additional sources I didn't think of to check, I'd love to hear about them so I can add those too.  I might turn this into a proper handbook at some point, but for the moment figured it's just a useful list.

Observations and comments: Metacreativity, which was originally one of my top choices, has very few powers that are otherwise entirely unavailable to the Erudite.  While some of its powers are exceedingly nice, the Erudite eventually gets all the best ones anyway if the game goes epic.  Genesis is the only one from there I would really, really want that I can't get pre-epic, and even that one could, potentially, be obtained with psychic chirurgery.  Psychometabolism, however, remains top of the pile - and perhaps secures its position as #1 pick, as it has the largest number of otherwise unavailable powers, several of which are very nice.  It also of course contains Metamorphosis and its greater version, meaning earlier access to those.

I'm building a Druid, and I don't want to go quite as far as taking that exceedingly powerful Fleshraker Dinosaur as either a primary wildshape form or my animal companion.  I would like to get something I can enhance with Venomfire that is a tad less excessively powerful than the Fleshraker.  Are there any good choices that are solid and also have poison?  Particularly around level 5, but higher levels matter too so I can upgrade as needed.

Min/Max 3.x / Erudite with Favored Discipline(s).
« on: November 07, 2011, 05:38:58 PM »
I'm planning to build an Erudite to play soon, hopefully.  Going to avoid the Spell to Power variant since that's just so overpowered I don't feel I would be capable of playing down to the rest of the party without constantly second-guessing myself.  I'm trying to work out a good build without going too far, but I'm often not a good judge of what 'too far' is.

Right now, my biggest question would be, what the best Favored Discipline to pick would be.  Or possibly what the two best ones, since favored discipline trades bonus feat, and the free psicrystal is referred to as a bonus feat, meaning that depending on the interpretation, you might have two bonus feats to trade for favored disciplines.  I'm leaning toward Psychometabolism being the best, but some other opinions on that would be welcome.  As for the second best, I'm unsure.  Telepathy seems good since it allows Schism access at 7th level instead of 9th, as well as access to Metaconcert at 9th instead of 11th.  Plus the telepathy is very thematic for psionics, so there's that.  However, Clairsentience and Metacreativity both have their draws (such as access to Genesis before epic in Metacreativity, or Metafaculty in Clairsentience).  Cross-referencing discipline to the other class's lists is somewhat annoying since I know of no listing of psionic powers by discipline.  ...maybe I'll wind up making one.

I should note that for this particular character, it'll be starting at low level (3-4) and I'm unsure how high the campaign might go.  But I'm also interested in general erudite building for the future as well.

Introduce Yourself / Well then..
« on: November 06, 2011, 08:51:58 PM »
Might as well post something just to make sure my account doesn't get deleted.  I've lurked around on the old boards on occasion for quite a while, and I'll probably mostly lurk around here too.

Let's see, my favorite RPG's are D&D, pretty much.  3.5 for the most part, although I occasionally wax nostalgic for some of those old 2nd Edition memories.
Beyond that my hobbies are pretty much computer games of varying types, which tend to get a lot more play although I like D&D better, simply due to logistical issues.
I live in California, in the Los Angeles area.

Let's see if I actually talk much this time around on the boards.  Heh.

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