Author Topic: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal  (Read 143436 times)

Offline Sobolev

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The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« on: January 21, 2012, 01:48:12 PM »
The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
Table of Contents

Introduction
The Binder is a character making use of an otherwise nearly abandoned concept, the Supernatural ability.  Binders receive Supernatural abilities from 1-4 Vestiges throughout their career, beings outside of the normal planes.  Each gives you a few abilities, around 3-5, that you can use often.  Even the more limited powers are often useable every five rounds.  Also, many of the abilities are quite similar to spells and can give you some of the power of a caster without bothering you to keep track of spells known or spells remaining per day.  Binders can technically be considered to be Charisma based characters as the saving throw for their abilities is based on that score but many other vestiges give combat abilities so Binders are not required to sell out to buff charisma the way a caster might.  The downside is that keeping everything available to a binder in mind can be complicated, even more complicated than a caster for a new player because memorizing Color Spray 15 times is not a possibility.  Binders can be expected to perform well in a party with Tier 3's, and with online access it can become Tier 2 with even a conservative reading of Zceryll.

Role in the Party
I'm going to say a lot of controversial things in this guide probably, but I will start that here by saying this: Binders can fill many of the roles of a party.  While many people may tell you that you can start the healing role when you get Buer, what they actually mean is that you can start giving your party infinite out of combat healing with Andras at the same level (5) and a Shield of Mercy.  You can fake a very expensive Wizard with Karsus and a bunch of Wands.  Clearly though they are better at some roles than others, and having 14 Str, 14 Dex, and 14 Charisma is an easy way to be irrelevant in the late game.  Binders CAN switch roles daily and CAN be successful at it, but they still require planning to ensure happy playing through all levels.

Grading Scale
I'm sure most of you are familiar with this system, but here it is for completeness.
  • Red: This option is terrible; in most cases this is something you can completely forget about and I have included it simply for completeness.
  • Green: This option is somewhere between weak and "standard".  Your build will likely have some green choices in it, but if your build is flooded with them, you're not living up to your full potential.
  • Blue: These options are the good stuff.  Your build is hopefully mostly blue with a splash of green and purple options.
  • Purple: This option is somewhere between very strong and overwhelming.  If you are not choosing a purple option it is a conscious decision on your part, either for game balance, inter-party balance, or other character concerns.  You should never forget about a purple option being available.

Helpful Links


Thanks!
Thanks to...
  • AfterCrescent, not only did AC write an excellent Cleric guide but I stole its excellent formatting.
  • jameswilliamogle, wrote the last compilation and I will be using a few charts that are quite good.  I will give credit for those as I go.  He also had a pretty nice compilation and I hope to combine the knowledge he found with this guide.  That being said, we don't agree on every point and I hope this can be seen as my own work.
  • Cagemarrow, for some very nifty references. Specifically, his work on the Useful Materials for Djinni Summoning and the Zceryll Summoning Stat Blocks.
  • Anyone who encouraged me to write this guide; I started this guide 3 years before I finished it, and in between wasn't thinking too much about D&D.  Still, feels good to get this work done.
  • BloodDragon, for compiling a ton of crafting options for the Cityscape Astaroth
  • A few folks who wrote equipment guides: in particular Ernir, SorO_Lost, and honorable mention here uncredited.
  • A few folks who wrote helpful psionic guides that I used to give recommendations on psionic vestiges; nijineko and Saeomon in particular.

Last Update
This guide was last updated 02 June 2015.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2015, 09:43:39 PM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2012, 01:48:26 PM »
Attributes, and Races
Alignment
But first, Alignment.  Now, it's strange to talk about min/maxing alignment but in the case of the Binder it's actually a part of the formula.  In order to get the greatest benefit out of Tenebrous' Turn Undead ability, you will need to be Neutral or Evil because Command Undead is much stronger than Turn Undead.   In order to qualify for Knight of the Sacred Seal (prestige class, we'll get to it) you must be non-chaotic.  That leaves the min/max'ed Binder with the options of Lawful Neutral, True Neutral, Lawful Evil and Neutral Evil. 

Attributes
Attributes with a Binder can be tricky.  A Binder with designs on a Paimon build that uses Weapon Finesse from either Paimon or Balam, and maybe Sneak Attack granted by Andromalius might ignore Strength, but a build centered on Eligor and Andras for a charge build would definitely not.  This is where some serious planning needs to come in to play.  I've played a high level Binder who had low strength, medium Dex and Con and high Charisma and spent every combat just casting various Binder Breath Weapons.  In general the stats you should look at are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma, and Charisma should probably never be lower than number two on your priority list.  You probably only need either Strength or Dexterity high, based on how you plan to attack in combat with the other accepting a lower score for either a meager AC bonus or an ability to carry your own armor.

Races
Player's Handbook:
  • HumanPHB: Humans are good at everything, and an extra feat can be quite helpful for Binders.  In particular Weapon Focus is a feat tax for Binders so you can easily take a useful feat at level 1 with your Human and free up extra space for feats for you to perform additional party roles.
  • DwarfPHB: +2 Con, -2 Cha.  Dwarves for some reason seem to be the poster child Binders, probably because they're so damn cool despite the fact that the fluff makes little sense and Dwarves have a penalty to the Binders primary stat.  If you really want to play a Dwarf a subrace without a Charisma penalty is the way to go.  Dream Dwarves in particular are good for this.  That being said, you can do worse and at low levels tanking with Savnok without reduced movement speed can be quite handy.  At high levels the automatic search performed by Dwarves can be handy with Ashardalon but by then you will probably regret taking an unnecessary penalty to your save DCs.
  • ElfPHB: +2 Dex, -2 Con.  These stats don't really do anything for you.  The auto-search can be useful but this race is largely meaningless to you.
  • GnomePHB: +2 Con, -2 Str.  Being small is nice but the rest of this is unexciting.
  • Half-ElfPHB: Useless.
  • Half-OrcPHB: +2 Str, -2 Int, -2 Cha.  If you're actually reading this, I can only assume you're doing it for RP reasons.  This is the wrong guide.  Please go to this website and read the works of this man.
  • HalflingPHB: +2 Dex, -2 Str.  Small, with a nice racial bonus to saves.  Being small gives all the usual suspects of bonuses.  I would likely recommend the Feat Halflings instead.  This race is a little better for Binders who plan to cast more, but a little weaker for Binders who plan to melee.

Other Races:
  • KoboldRotD: For those who don't know, the trick is to get the feat Dragonwrought.  With it you no longer take aging penalties so just start yourself off in the last age category, getting +3 to all your mental stats.  Pretty snazzy. It's a little cheesy though and won't mesh well with a regular group.  I think they're pretty much the best at everything.
  • Dream DwarfRoS: +2 Con, -2 Dex.  90 ft Darkvision, Full Movement in Armor, Stonecunning, and Stability make a pretty good race without any cheese at all.
  • Strongheart HalflingFR: As mentioned in the Halfling section, this race can make a decent casting Binder.  A sneak-y binder might also benefit from the small size and skill bonuses.
  • RaptoranRotW: Binders lack the ability to gain permanent flight from their class; this is an option.
  • Dragonborn: As above.  Can also be used to get a breath weapon to qualify for metabreath feats.  By RAW you need to be of good alignment.
  • Kalashtar: If you're going to mess around with Psionic Vestiges this is worth considering.  This will give you some power points to qualify for things, and a manifester level as well. I don't think this is a great choice normally, but it is a great choice if you're going to mess around with that stuff. Eberron Campaign Setting, pg16.
  • Hellbred: Found in Fiendish Codex II, pg??.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2015, 11:45:13 PM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2012, 01:48:34 PM »
Class Features and ACFs
Class Features
  • Soul Binding: This is your bread and butter.  If you don't want to use this ability, then why are you playing this class?  While it's not the full casting of a Druid or Wizard, Soul Binding is a powerful ability giving access to a variety of Supernatural abilities and plenty of power to muscle your way through most campaigns.  The trick comes with the proper combination of Vestiges in the late game.
  • Pact Augmentation (2nd Level): Pact Augmentation is subtle, but pretty good.  Starting at level 2 and maxing out at 5 abilities at level 20 it gives a variety of minor bonuses.  Still, they can help you switch roles and if nothing else you can end the game with +10 Initiative from this alone.  Increasing your attack bonus is the major other bonus to consider most of the time.
  • Suppress Sign (2nd Level): This ability is mostly for RP, it allows you to not show the sign of a Vestige if you make a good pact.  Some Vestiges require you to show their sign in order to make use of their ability, and most other signs have RP consequences but no mechanical ones.  Still, good to have so your DM doesn't apply a permanent -2 to all of your interactions with NPCs.
  • Bonus Feats (4th, 11th and 18th Levels): You'll never gain the third feat hopefully, but free feats are good.  The list is limited but there's enough there that you can get two good picks.  Improved Binding is on the list and is a good feat, but you probably wanted it with your regular feats unless you're starting at a level above 4.  Ignore Special Requirements, Sudden Ability Focus, and the Favored Vestige line are good options here.
  • Soul Guardian (6th, 9th, 13th and 19th Level): The first one is fear immunity, which is something for nothing, but not great.  It also rather hilariously invalidates a Vestige ability that you just got.  Slippery Mind is the second, and is solid and with help with your good Will Save may help balance out a poor Wisdom score.  The third is immunity to negative levels and energy drain is quite good.  The final one is Mind Blank.

Alternate Class Features
     There are no ACFs for Binders.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 06:03:57 PM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2012, 01:48:50 PM »
Skills and Feats
Skills
     Rather than rate separate skills that I think we can all identify as good (Use Magic Device), I think a more useful guide would be an outline of skills and ranks that are required to be a successful Binder.  Note:  All of the skill requirements for Vestiges can be ignored with the "Ignore Special Requirements" feat.  That being said, the skills required are for the most part good skills anyway and require very few ranks so ISR is not a feat you need to rush immediately to.  In the meantime the following may come in handy.
  • Knowledge (Religion) 5 Ranks.  Geryon requires this or Knowledge (The Planes). Knight of the Sacred Seal requires this or (The Planes) or (Arcana).  Ipos requires this or Knowledge (The Planes).   This also meets Naberius's requirement of 4 ranks in any Knowledge skill.
  • Knowledge (The Planes) 5 Ranks.  Geryon requires this or Knowledge (Religion).  Knight of the Sacred Seal requires this or (Religion) or (Arcana).  Ipos requires this or Knowledge (Religion).  This also meets Naberius's requirement of 4 ranks in any Knowledge skill.
  • Knowledge (Arcana) 5 Ranks.  Knight of the Sacred Seal requires this or (The Planes) or (Religion).  Ipos requires this.  Karsus requires this or Spellcraft.  This also meets Naberius's requirement of 4 ranks in any Knowledge skill.
  • Speak Language: Giant  Haagenti requires this or Large size, and this is the much easier one to fulfill.  Possibly one of your starting languages if you have a decent Int score.
  • Spellcraft 5 Ranks.  Karsus requires this or Knowledge (Arcana).
  • Bluff 4 Ranks.  Naberius requires this or any Knowledge skill or any Profession skill.
  • Intimidate 4 Ranks.  Improved Binding, the greatest feat ever printed, requires this. 
That means the minimum amount of skill ranks needed to summon all vestiges without Ignore Special Requirements is the following:
     Speak Language: Giant, Knowledge (Arcana) 5 Ranks, Knowledge (Religion or The Planes) 5 Ranks.  Intimidate 4 Ranks.
Naberius' requirement is easily met meeting other requirements but Bluff isn't a bad skill for you with your charisma focus.  Use Magic Device is as good for you as it is for most other Charisma characters.  Intimidate opens up Improved Binding.  Spot and Listen are good for all characters if you can find the points.
     
Feats
Binder Feats
These are feats that can be gained as Binder bonus feats.  I won't review them all, just the high points.
  • Improved BindingToM: While it only allows you to get Vestiges early it's still absolutely amazing.  Worth it all the way up to 17th when you get 8th level Vestiges without it, I would recommend this for basically everyone up to that level.  If your game has feat retraining you have no excuse.  The only problem is that you probably want it before level 4, but burn a feat to get it ASAP.
  • Favored VestigeToM: This feat doesn't really impress me.  Most often it will add a D6 to your damage, and every other level it will make your DC 1 higher.  In general I'm not sure this is worth a feat but the other two feats it opens up are quite interesting.
  • Favored Vestige FocusToM: +1 DC isn't bad, it's basically spell focus for one Vestige.  That being said Ability Focus gives +2 on a single ability and often a Vestige only has one ability that would benefit from a DC boost.  Still, something to consider if you really have extra feats and want to push something out of range.
  • Rapid RecoveryToM: A lot of combats don't last long enough for you to regain your powers anyway, but if your game does have long combats this feat can really shine. 
  • Ignore Special RequirementsToM: Don't rush to this feat, the low level skills required for Vestiges are good skills anyway and they require very low levels.  This feats major purpose is when you gain the ability to bind multiple vestiges this feat allows you to bind Vestiges that don't like each other.
  • Expel VestigeToM: This feat is good, no question about it particularly at low levels when it gives you a versatility in the same day that you simply didn't have before.  That being said, this feat actually gets worse over time as your build requires more and more interaction between two vestiges leaving you unable to happily Expel either.  In addition the effect can be duplicated by an item (Vestige Phylactery) in the mid to late game.  If your game has feat retraining or is going to stay low level don't go without.  If you're starting in the midgame, or plan on spending most of your time there it might not be worth it.
  • Rapid Pact MakingToM: I don't like this feat at all.  On top of not actually working as written for anything in particular, you will very rarely find yourself both WITH an empty slot and needing a vestige in a hurry.  Plan ahead, don't use this feat.
  • Sudden Ability FocusToM: This feat is okay, but if you find yourself constantly using it on the same ability, you should have taken Ability Focus.

The other feats that you are allowed to take with this class feature: Armor Proficiency (medium), Armor Proficiency (heavy), Diligent, Investigator, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Negotiator, Persuasive, and Shield Proficiency.  None of which are particularly compelling.

Other Feats
  • Weapon Focus PHB: This feat, for any weapon you like, is required for Knight of the Sacred Seal.  You pretty much have to take it unless you're making a caster multiclass build.
  • Power AttackPHB: Melee builds based on Strength will probably want this.
  • Improved InitiativePHB:  At times you will function as a caster debuffing enemies in the first round with either a breath weapon or putting up walls and the like.  At those times this might come in handy.
  • Ability FocusMM:  If you have a build that focuses on one Vestige that has a save DC ability this is for you.  Combines nicely with Favored Vestige and Knight of the Sacred Seal.
  • Imperious CommandDrow of the Underdark: You get intimidate as a class skill, and there's ways to intimidate as a move action and a skill check to intimidate in a 30 foot radius.  This can go a long way toward becoming a mean battlefield controller
  • Power Surge (Dragon Magazine #313, pg57): Does one of three things: +1 DC, +1 Damage Per Die, or +50% Duration.  You have to select what to use it with when you take the feat, but this could be strong.  Increases the cooldown of the ability by 1 round.
  • Nymph's Kiss, Book of Exalted Deeds, pg??
  • Able Learner, ???, pg??
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 07:01:00 AM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2012, 01:48:58 PM »
Prestige Classes

Tome of Magic
Knight of the Sacred Seal
Requirements: BAB +4, non-chaotic, minor skill ranks, Weapon Focus
What You Lose: 2 Pact Augmentations, 2 Will Save, Mind Blank (you can get it from Ahazu or Haures), 2 Feats (Binder Bonus, Wasted Feat on Weapon Focus)
What You Gain: You always make a Good Pact with your Patron.  Your weapons always strike as your alignment. You can use a swift action once every 5 rounds to give your charisma bonus to AC and Reflex saves to yourself and all adjacent allies. Every 5 rounds you get a bonus to some stats. You can use a Vestige once per 5 round ability twice in a row once per day.  You become an outsider, and DR 10/magic.  Also +1 BAB, +1 Fort Save and a bunch of proficiency. I personally think that if you are taking Binder without dreams of caster levels this is a trade you should make every time. 

Anima Mage
Requirements: Non-good, minor skill requirements, any metamagic, level 2 vestiges (level 1 Binder + Improved Binding), level 2 arcane spells
What You Lose: Irrelevant Stuff.
What You Gain: The ability to surpress a Vestige in order to metamagic without an increase in levels, dual progression with arcane casting and binding, +2 initiative, a bonus spell per day of the level of your choice, 1/day Quicken a Spell.  The real downside with this class actually has nothing to do with this class.  With Anima Mage and a level of Binder you only get to EBL 11, and there's no obvious way to finish the job.  What you really probably want is Zceryll, who's a good trick even for a Tier 1 Caster.  You can bind him at this EBL, but you aren't really summoning anything worth your time at this EBL. The divine version however can then use Tenebrous Apostate to finish your divine caster levels and your binding.  If not, you'll need a few more levels of Binder (or a Binder PrC) and then something to get 9th level spells.  A great, great, PrC with lots of tricks.

Tenebrous Apostate
Requirements: Non-good, , skills requiring level 5, ability to bind Tenebrous (EBL 7),
What You Lose: A bunch of stuff, including a binder level.
What You Gain: Some random weak abilities, and in five levels you gain four levels of binding and four levels of divine spellcasting.  You must always bind Tenebrous (you actually can't unbind him). Without divine adaptation of Anima Mage or the like, you lose 5 Caster Levels getting enough Soulbinding to enter this class, and another caster level when you take the first level of this class.  Without using it to improve Ur-Priest, or Sha'ir (and then using Anima Mage) you're not going to get enough divine caster levels for this to be of much use, and you don't wind up with much soulbinding either.  Of note, the class doesn't actually require divine spellcasting, so if you like the bonuses of the class it really only costs you a soulbinding level.  I think the effects are sort of weak, and it compromises your versatility by trapping you with Tenebrous (admittedly a powerful choice). 

Scion of Dantalion
Requirements: Half-Orc, Half-Elf, Human.  Knowledge (Nobility) 2, Ability to Bind Dantalion (EBL 10)
What You Lose: 2 Pact Augmentations, Mind Blank (you can get it from Ahazu or Haures), 1 Feat (Binder Bonus)
What You Gain: Knowledge rerolls per day equal to your Scion level (max 5), useable at any time. A variety of improvements to Dantalion's abilities.  If you like that guy (like 24/7 like that guy) it's probably worth it as you don't lose that much.  Generally, I wouldn't recommend it.  Dantalion is a fine Vestige, but he's not any of the top tier.  Technically, the class doesn't require you to stay bound to him at all times, and you can use your Knowledge rerolls without him.  But eh.

Misc.
Chameleon, found Online Here.
Requirements: Human or Doppleganger, Able Learner Feat (Requires Level 1), a ton of skills
What You Lose: A ton of EBL
What You Gain: A floating feat that you can change each day.  Access to gimped versions of Arcane or Divine spells, a poor bonus to hit (which doesn't even balance out your medium BAB), Wild Empathy (vomit), or Trapfinding and Uncanny Dodge.  You pretty much have to take the spells there, which max out at 6th level spells at 9th level of this class, but you're going to bail out of this like crazy after you get access to the floating feat at level 2.  You have to actually qualify for the feat.  This one gets brought up a lot, as there is obvious synergy between the Binder's ability to switch it up on the fly and the Chameleon's ever-changing feat.  There is certainly something there, but the loss of two EBL and using a feat on Able Learner doesn't feel worth it to me.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 09:43:15 AM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2012, 01:49:09 PM »
Vestiges
Alright, here you are.  The thing you really came to see.  First, a helpful chart provided from the old guide courtesy of jameswilliamogle.  All Vestiges are from Tome of Magic unless otherwise stated.

Vestige Chart:
(click to show/hide)

And at this point in my Binder playing career that's all I need.  But you loyal reader, and you must be loyal for making it this far, would probably enjoy some review of the various vestiges and their powers.  Remember every binder should have +2 EBL for binding from Improved Binding.  Several Vestiges have "Additional Tips", which give some synergy suggestions.  As with all optimization spending "unlimited" resources (i.e. gold) is better than spending limited resources (e.g. feats, skill points, class levels) and Binders amplify this.  Spending gold keeps you diverse, spending feats makes you less versatile.  Still, you'll have to spend SOME feats.  Good luck, young Binder!

Level 1 (Min. EBL 1):
(click to show/hide)

Level 2 (Min. EBL 3):
(click to show/hide)

Level 3 (Min. EBL 5):
(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 07:05:22 AM by Sobolev »

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2012, 01:49:22 PM »
Level 4 (Min. EBL 7):
(click to show/hide)

Level 5 (Min. EBL 10):
(click to show/hide)

Level 6 (Min. EBL 12):
(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: June 08, 2015, 11:47:17 PM by Sobolev »

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2012, 02:20:50 PM »
Level 7 (Min. EBL 15):
(click to show/hide)

Level 8 (Min. EBL 17):
(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: June 03, 2015, 10:02:42 PM by Sobolev »

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2012, 03:54:27 PM »
Sample Builds:
Paimon Sample Build:
(click to show/hide)

Abusive Caster Build:
(click to show/hide)

The Boltthrower
(click to show/hide)

Captain Funky
(click to show/hide)

Building a Binder from Scratch: A Sample
A friend of mine is running a game in which the players are currently level 9.  I know that it's an adventure path, and I know some of the plot points he has told me about, but I don't know too much about what to expect (I didn't read ahead).  The party is a melee type with many classes, a centaur charger build, a druid, a psion and a DMPC Cleric.  In my original discussion with him I know that Zceryll is either banned or heavily nerfed (takes two slots, daily cap on summons), and that Anima Mage is banned.  I still want caster levels as I think it's more fun, but with only Tenebrous Apostate to work with to advance both I'm going to need a fast progression class.  Ur-Priest seems appropriate:
Binder 5/Ur-Priest 4/Tenebrous Apostate 5/Tainted Sorcerer 1gives me 9th level Divine Spells, and with Improved Binding I'm at EBL 11.  At this point, the DM lets me know that I'm building something too powerful for his game, and that Ur-Priest is unlikely to be allowed (basically exactly for the reason that I'm using it for).  So I stop making this build for his game and just finish tacking levels on for illustration:
Binder 5/Ur-Priest 4/Tenebrous Apostate 5/Tainted Sorcerer 1/Major Bloodline 3 gives 9th level spells, and EBL 15 (so 8th level Vestiges with Improved Binding).  Normally I'd finish my EBL for Summon Monster, any level in a Binder prestige class (Knight of the Sacred Seal?) would give you another 4 EBL, and that's 9th level Summon Monster.  Then take a level in something...whatever.  Take some Spell Focus (Evil), some Malign Spell Focus, Weapon Focus for Knight of the Sacred Seal, you need Iron Will for Ur-Priest; after that do whatever.  This isn't as good as a Divine Anima Mage, but it also doesn't require adaptation.

Next build!
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 05:48:33 PM by Sobolev »

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2012, 11:19:11 PM »
Binder Equipment

Specific equipment for Vestiges is listed in their section, listing here would feel redundant.  So this will be general use items.

Head:
(click to show/hide)

Face:
(click to show/hide)

Shoulders:
(click to show/hide)

Throat:
(click to show/hide)

Torso:
(click to show/hide)

Body:
(click to show/hide)

Waist:
(click to show/hide)

Arms:
(click to show/hide)

Hands:
(click to show/hide)

Rings:
(click to show/hide)

Feet:
(click to show/hide)

Weapons:
(click to show/hide)

Enchantments:
(click to show/hide)

Gear
(click to show/hide)

Useful Spell Effects:
(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: June 28, 2015, 12:03:38 AM by Sobolev »

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2015, 07:39:51 PM »
Binder in the Trenches:

The following post is 100% the work of jameswilliamogle and I have left it completely intact, typos and all.  I think it illustrates a possible Binder experience for the reader.

Quote from: jameswilliamogle

Real Game Experiences from a Binder Player
by jameswilliamogle

Here’s the rundown of how my Binder is working out in the Savage Tides adventure Path, modified for Eberron (I believe its normally LG).  For those who don’t know, this is a heavily-aquatic themed series with a diverse array of opportunities and adventure (though there is also a strong central theme as well).  I’m enjoying the campaign quite a bit.  There probably will be some spoiling, but I will try to focus on the mechanical aspects of how things are working out.  So far, I’m following my own advice above, Low-Level Binder Advancement, pretty closely.

The DM was encouraging non-standard classes, and hasn’t really restricted anything yet.  The other players are: a Beguiler, a Spellthief, a Psion, a Cleric/Psion (more Psion, now), a Warforged Fighter, and an Elven Blaster Wizard (taking UA options, he’s focusing on fire).  The DM has given “Rule 0” power to the players as well as keeping it himself: if a clear majority think a feat, spell, power, etc. is too strong, then its restricted (Shock Trooper and Leap Attack have both been restricted already, for example).

I went with Human.  I rolled ridiculously high for stats (4d6, drop the lowest):
Str 15, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 17
Since we started at 1st, I took Improved Binding and Expel Vestige (I wasn’t sure if Expel Vestige was really necessary, but I’m very glad I took it).  The DM allowed swapping of 2 class skills: I swapped Gather Info and Kn: Planes for Hide and Move Silently (UMD would've been better, but oh well).  For my bonus languages, I took Giant (for Haagenti) and Aquan (since I knew it was an aquatic themed campaign).

1st level:  I started bound to Naberius, but quickly switched to Malphus as we were sent on a search-and-rescue type mission.  Malphus’s Bird’s-Eye-Viewing, coupled with a sunstick that the bird carried, ensured that the party wasn’t surprised at all.  Sudden Strike only came into play when I attacked a grappling enemy (mostly undead).  With Studded Leather and a Heavy Shield, I had an 18 AC, which was enough to keep most attacks off of me.  I downed quite a few enemies w/ my Morningstar, which was quite rewarding.  I tried to expel Malphus, but failed.  After resting, I felt that we could use some more melee-oriented characters, and I bound Aym.  Unbeknownst to us, we cleared all the enemies away already, and Aym actually was a bad choice: I made a bad pact, and since we had a ton of coinage, and also had to swim to get it ashore, I chose to role-play it out, and refused to leave any coins behind.  We got a bunch of coinage, a few wands, and an Earth Elemental Gem that saved are butts.

2nd level:  In between sessions, I used Naberius a lot, and disguised myself as a local nobleman.  I bought a bunch of stuff on credit, and then dumped it on a fence, making some money that way.  Once the session started, I bound Dahlver-Nar, and bought a MW Buckler, but didn’t have enough cash for a MW Chain Shirt (almost all our loot is tied up in magic items, which really sucks, as the Wizard is holding it all, and we’re overdue for some upgrades).  I was putting Pact Augmentation to HP.  Binding DN, I found, makes your first 1-2 rounds of combat almost completely defensive: you have Shield Self on one of your allies (preferably the Cleric), then target an enemy as you stand near the front, and hope they don’t kill you.  Although this reduces your damage output, it really, really helps your HP totals (DR / 50% is awesome).  The damage the enemy takes isn’t anything that you really can rely on: its almost strictly a defensive vestige.  At AC 19, DN allowed a lot of tanking.  I went below 0 once, and only for a few rounds (remember: Shield Self only goes away when the target dies, so I still had it active on the unconscious BBEG’s, which saved me from certain death).  After working over some more bad guys, we fought a poorly defended humanoid.  It almost assuredly is a recurring villain, as it drank a Gaseous Form potion after HP’s ran really low.  Only the unconscious WF Fighter actually had magical weapons (from feats), and it was getting away.  It took me a round to realize it, but then I targeted her with Shield Self, and following it, had the Spellthief and the Cleric follow me, backstabbing and healing me as we whittled down her HP until it stopped moving.  This was a LOT of fun, and we got some fat loot from defeating it at this time (a 5 charge wand of animate dead, for example, and a +1 Rapier that came in VERY handy).  The next day in the city, we had several random encounters, including some raptors (eating people).  I (stupidly) forgot how strong Raptors were, and charged one that I could flank.  Full attacks suck…  Anyways, I was still conscious, but very hurt (<5 HP).  I used the Maddening Moan ability of DN to make all the enemies Dazed (dinosaurs are known for lots of things: Will save isn’t one of them); all 3 Dinos that were on me failed the Will save, as well as the Spellthief and Fighter, who happened to be in range, and I moved 30’ without taking any AoO’s (the MM ability seems to be strictly for getting out of melee when things go bad).  The cleric healed me a bit w/ a happy stick, and I targeted a Dino attacking our flank w/ Shield Self, and went in after the Spellthief engaged it.  The Wizard busted open the Earth Elemental, and that finished combat rapidly.  He also animated the raptors w/ the wand, right afterwards (much to the annoyance of the DM :D).

3rd level:  I took Improved Initiative, still not knowing where to focus my Binder (as I have to leave the campaign in May, I’m not sure how many levels I’ll reach, and trying to take immediate benefit feats instead).  I also started binding Paimon, and put Pact Augmentation into Initiative, for a +11 Initiative modifier.  That +1 Magic Rapier put my attack bonus at +8, and damage at a paultry d6+3.  AC became a 20, thanks to MW Chain Shirt and Dex bump from Paimon.  Combat against mobs was very smooth for the most part: winning initiative means you get to Dance of Death round 1 before the enemy attacks, almost every time, and +8 to hit gives you some pretty good odds (better than the straight fighter, in this campaign).  After that, they tend to surround you, but your good AC keeps things from hitting you most of the time, and giving you a great opportunity to use Whirlwind Attack on the following round.  Against tough opponents, I found that using Dance of Death like Spring Attack (using the tumbling bonus from Paimon) kept me from taking too much damage, and the skeleton raptors were wicked-good at this level.  I got taken down by a Raptor-thing, and actually hit -9 HP before my party killed him.  We had almost spent our Happy Stick, and was only at 13 HP, so I used Expel Vestige (successfully) and then bound Focolor, suppressing the Aura of Sadness, and putting Pact Aug into HP.  We had a few more encounters, but they were pretty easy: I stayed behind whoever was tanking, and zapped the badguys like a bug.  Net result: Paimon is great for mobs of weaklings, but don’t expect to have a huge impact against the tougher BBEG’s, but you can make a difference in every combat with Focolor.  Along the way, I took some ability damage, so bound Naberius while we returned home.  We got a fight starting next session, and haven't had a chance to level yet (since we haven't rested).

The next session we encountered a couple of thugs, that tried to pick a fight.  We beat them easily, and I used Naberius (taking 10 on diplomacy) to convince the city guards that it was their fault with a 22 check ("These aren't the droids you're looking for").  We then encountered 6 low-level Rogues and a BBEG leading them in the city; they surprised us getting sneak attack on the warforged with alchemist fire, dropping him immediately.  Then the BBEG went around the side of a building out of sight, and the Beguiler cast Obscurring Mist, to prevent more SA.  I went around the opposite side of the building (had only 17 HP at this point, about 70%), and used Disguise Self as a standard action to make myself look like the BBEG (they were familiar w/ her, granting them +6 to spot it, but I had a +13 mod: +10 for Disguise Self, +3 Cha, +2 Bluff, -2 different sex); I then went around and told them that the person they were with was a Changeling, and they needed to attack it now (they believed me, but instead of attacking the other one, just were confused).  This gave the Wizard enough time to repair the Warforged, and the Beguiler managed to charm the BBEG, and the others got into position.  We then wiped out the group, but not until the Wizard got into negative HP territory. 

We then got immediately into ANOTHER battle, but started in it by trying to use Diplomacy.  By this time, I was at 1 HP, so I disguised myself as a peasant.  The tank, beguiler, and spellthief went up a few floors into a building, trying to talk someone into letting someone else go [trying not to spoil the adventure].  When we went into initiative, I went around the building, disguising myself as one of the minor bad guys.  I then went into the building, without anyone taking AoO's against me, until I got to the top floor where half the party was (the other half fighting on the first floor).  I bluffed and said the badguys needed to go downstairs to rescue one of the evil-coworkers (on the second floor, the Wizard had commanded two raptor skeletons to guard the stairs, after I had gone up).  Half of them went down (all the minor bad guys) got flayed alive.  The tougher badguys dropped a Tank, Cleric, Beguiler, and Gnome w/in a round (I drank a CLW potion then).  I walked down the stairs, disguised myself as the same badguy that I had pretended was downstairs, and walked into the room where the evil do-ers were tieing up my party.  I told them that I had escaped, and needed help defeating the rest of the ones downstairs, again taking 10 and getting a 20 bluff check.  They went downstairs, as I said "I need to heal myself", drank another potion of CLW, then went into the room.  I poured the last CLW on the beguiler, as the evil do-ers were working on the raptors.  The beguiler in turn repaired the warforged.  I jumped out of the window with the Gnome Spellthief, and landed prone, but only took 8 damage or so.  The party downstairs were all < 0 HP.  The party upstairs was running low.  Anyways, it was a VERY harrowing fight, but I was dropped at that point w/ non-lethal damage.  We won, but one of the bad guys was convinced to leave (Charm Person from the Beguiler, natural 1 on the save), and every party member, all the undead we had made, all of the consumable healing resources all got used up, only the Beguiler surviving at 4 HP.

If I hadn't had Naberius bound, we all would've died (or at least been captured), but the extra time that I was able to grant the party really, really helped out a lot.  The DM may have even been nerfing the NPC reactions, but just slowing them down was good enough for me.  Having Naberius bound you don't even need to try to optimize for a diplomonster build, and still be ridiculously good at it; what's really, really nice is the take 10 on the bluff check (in this campaign, you can even action point it after taking 10, for some ridiculous numbers, since its Eberron).

Level 4: We decided that retraining for non-power plays would be ok, so I retrained my Improved Binding feat to be in the 4th level bonus feat, and retrained the 1st level feat as Combat Expertise (planning on taking Deadly Defense at 6th).  I put the stat bump into Cha, for a 16 DC save vs. my vestige abilities that allow saves.  This is (more or less) where we ended on Sunday.  More to follow as the campaign continues.  Not much outside of standard skill checks occured through the rest of this level... I used Naberius a lot.  Don't really remember much else (and the bit I did remember would spoil some of the adventure, too).

Level 5: I started by binding Andras, but as we were going to do some more dungeon crawling, quickly switched back to Paimon.  Using Deadly Defense and fighting defensively, I had a +7 to hit w/ a +1 Rapier.  Using Dance of Death I managed to crit against 3 opponents... I ended up doing 79 damage in one round, getting initiative, and walked back to behind the (other) main tank (my AC was a 23 throughout this whole delve).  I nicknamed this "turning on the blender", and there were many jokes about my recharge meter filling up between uses, me charging up like dragonball, etc.  Afterwards, I  found out I was diseased, and I managed to expel vestige and bind Buer... ending that.

Levels 6 and 7: Just sucked; the Binder starts to fall behind straight casters and melee types at this point.  The Medium BAB really hurt the whole concept of a finesse fighter.  Our melee characters started failing Will saves, which really strained the Binder.  It became obvious that it wasn't strong enough in melee to continue melee'ing.  I was binding lots of different types of vestiges, too, most of which were mediocre.  Eurynome sucks, as does Agares (as I thought it would).  Buer proved ridiculously useful, but it still isn't a prime choice.  Paimon and Andras were still the strongest choices at this level.  7th level, having no new access at all, really felt dead: I almost delayed leveling to get more XP from the remaining encounters.

Level 8: Looking forward to combining Otiax's Air Blast w/ Combat Expertise and Sneak Attack :D.

Theory matches Play: The Binder can melee with the best of them, but then has tons of other options to fall back on.  I would NOT recomend this class for an inexperienced player, as the options can be a bit overwhelming, even with only one vestige to bind at a time.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 06:02:55 PM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2015, 12:06:38 AM »
FAQ:

Should I take Improved Binding at 1st level?
This is the first thing you should ask yourself while playing a Binder.  If you're going to select another feat on the list of bonus feats before level 11 (such as Ignore Special Requirements, Expel Vestige or Favored Vestige being the three most likely), then you should pick up Improved Binding at level 1 and then select the other feat with your level 4 Binder bonus feat.  The power level difference between having it and not is substantial. 

If you choose to not take Improved Binding at level 1 and take it as your level 4 bonus feat instead then I'm going to recommend you start the game using Aym or Leraje.  Taking the feat later is probably a stronger long-term plan, even though your first few Vestiges are weak.  With Aym the improved armor will keep you alive, and sundering weapons is a reasonable plan if you fight a lot of humanoids.  Anyone who has a magical weapon that you shouldn't sunder will likely be obvious at low levels.  It's unlikely any humanoids that you fight will have the ability to attack you unarmed.  Additionally, your fire aura will actually do relevant damage at this level.  With Leraje you can buy a cheap bow and use it from afar being just as effective as the party archer (since he burned his feats on Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot).  You're actually getting a little boost in damage from your Ricochet.  This too won't hold up long but long enough to get you through levels one and two.  At level 3 you can switch to Malphas and for the next few levels it will be substantial power boosts each level. 

The downside of this second approach is that you won't have Ignore Special Requirements until level 11 (rather than taking it as your level 4 bonus feat) which will still fill its primary purpose of allowing you to bind vestiges that don't like each other together (you first get the ability to have two vestiges at level 8) but you'll need to RP a few things and go without Ahazu.  This is hardly crippling, but means you will be even more reliant on Paimon, Malphas, and Focalor.  In general, I would recommend this plan of action if you can stand it.

What do I do between EBL 5 and EBL 7?
This is where I'm going to lose some people, in these EBL.  You're no longer keeping up with the fighters just fine (you just lost your second BAB), and you don't do that much damage.  You'll need to struggle along with Paimon, Malphas and Focalor.  If you're using Focalor, be careful not to be debuffing your allies as well.  If you're using Paimon you'll likely want to be tripping people, or using Knock-down.  This is obviously much better if there is feat retraining or you have access to Psychic Reformation as you won't want these feats later.  With Malphas, you'll be doing a bit of damage with Sudden Strike, but you'll want to be the party sneak (so not so good when surrounded by rogues.  Hang in there, you're about to have Tenebrous, all the crafting feats, and infinite out of combat healing.

How do I make an effective Binder?
The easiest way to explain this is actually to give an example.  Imagine two level 7 Binders, the level before getting two Vestiges.  One is using Leraje, and used a bunch of feats on Archery-type things.  This is 2 BAB behind a similar fighter, has half as many feats, and has basically no other class features to make up for it.  Also less HP, less proficiencies and debatably less strength/dexterity (if this Binder has a decent Charisma score). The other Binder is either providing infinite out of combat healing with Tenebrous + Sacred Healing or Andras + Shield of Mercy.  The Tenebrous Binder has an army of undead, and is setting himself up for some serious caster shenanigans.  The Andras build has less attacks than the Leraje vestige, but didn't trade all of his class features for one fighter feat, has used none of his feats to be effective, and has Improved Critical and Smite.  The Leraje build is a dead end (and worse than the same character being a fighter). The others are actually going somewhere.  Make sure your character is going somewhere!

How does Tenebrous' Turn Undead ability work?
I have heard many different interpretations of this ability, I will present as many as I can think of along with how reasonable I think the interpretation is.  Decide with your DM how it functions so you can plan ahead.
  • Option 1: Tenebrous gives you the ability to Turn Undead as a Cleric of your Binder level; therefore you can use the Turn Undead ability every 5 rounds AND you can use this ability the same number of times a Cleric can (3+Charisma).  Note, Paladins use similar language in that they turn as a Cleric three levels lower and still have a stated uses whereas Binders do not and by default do not have a daily limit on their abilities. The most compelling "evidence" for this interpretation is on pg159 of the Player's Handbook, and is listed under Times per Day under Turning Checks and states that this action can be performed 3+charisma times per day. It's unclear if this is truly a rule, or just a reminder (since all the classes in the Player's Handbook turn 3 + charisma times per day).  Of note, this reading definitely allows you to use divine feats and benefit from effects that increase uses per day as you are argued to have 3 plus Charisma bonus uses per day. In cases where you can trivialize the cap (by way of limitless Nightsticks or bonus feats for Extra Turning) this reading is as strong as option 3. Debatable, but since it separates the concept of "uses" from the actual using of the ability you probably can (read: your DM will not allow you to but that's a nerf, not the rules) spend all of your uses at once, or in whatever amounts you want since you aren't actually USING the ability, just spending your daily uses. If that's the case it becomes the strongest option here.
  • Option 2: Tenebrous gives you the Turn Undead action, but no actual uses.  This means you can Turn Undead to gain control of them or rebuke them, but can't feed Divine Feats.  I think this is actually a reasonable reading of the ability, but it's also pretty lame.  To be honest, the Divine feats (Divine Metamagic exempt) are a little on the weak side so this removes a way for them to actually see play.  This option is extremely disappointing in a campaign where the party won't let you control undead (because that's evil).
  • Option 3: Tenebrous gives you a use of the Turn Undead ability, and once you use it you regain it 5 rounds later.  This is both good, and compelling (as it opens a bunch of Divine Feats).  It reduces the cost of Divine Metamagic every five rounds (but doesn't just pay for them outright since you can't use them all at once).  It lets you use Devotion feats too.  This is how I read the ability, and it opens a lot of options even in a party that won't let you control undead.

What is the best vestige?
Probably Zceryll, but after that it's not as clear.  There is a clear top tier, but some of them require a lot of synergy with other abilities (Tenebrous, Naberius); others (Halphax, Orthos) are good on their own without any support but have a lower ceiling.  There are DMs in this world that are convinced that any positive interaction between two unrelated abilities is against RAI which may alter the following.  Within a tier, vestiges are in no particular order; for the most part any of the tiers above Bottom Feeders are "reasonable" choices though I prefer the higher tiers as they feel more dynamic.
  • Top Tier: Naberius, Tenebrous, Orthos, Halphax, Chupoclops, Zceryll,
  • Solid Tier: Dahlver-Nar, Malphas, Ahazu, Focalor, Paimon, Andras, Astaroth (Cityscape), Dantalion, Otiax, Haures, Vanus, Eligor,
  • Filler Tier: Amon, Savnok, Andromalius, Karsus, Astaroth (Dragon Magazine), Kas, Acerak, Balam, Geryon, Desharis, Ipos, Zagan, Anistif, Ashardalon
  • Bottom Feeders: Aym, Leraje, Ronove, Haagenti, Primus, Agares, Arete, Buer, Cabiri, Eurynome, Shax, The Triad, Marchosias, Abysm

Do Vestige abilities allow you to qualify for feats/prestige classes/etc?
Who knows.  There's a quote floating around from the old wizard boards, but no one can actually find the original post, that says "they weren't intended to."  Note the quote came from CustServ which was inconsistent and often wrong; it also doesn't actually say anything about any rules.  The D&D FAQ makes reference to items qualifying characters for feats and losing access to them if the character no longer qualifies (such as by losing or replacing the item).  Complete Warrior and Complete Arcane make reference to qualifying for Prestige Classes, and then losing the special abilities of a class if a character no longer qualifies (specifically mentioning level loss or replacing items).  My personal opinion is that every feat selection that relies on the ability granted by a Vestige makes you less versatile, so it's a reasonable trade-off that you lose the feat whenever you don't qualify, but that you can select feats.  If Vestiges don't count, Binders basically don't have class features to qualify for feats, which is a pretty unnecessary nerf to a mid tier class.  Meanwhile, Wizards are casting Permanency to qualify for tons of things!  Talk to your DM, but honestly if they say you can't take feats, just pick another class.

What can I do with a Psionic Vestige?
I've rated all three Psionic Vestiges very poorly.  In general, as written they are extremely weak.  By the time you get Abysm, to summon an Astral Construct at its maximum potential costs 15 of your 21 power points.  However, with some work Psionics can do a lot of work for you.  I've listed some tricks here, rather than listing them in three separate places since these don't require specific Vestiges.  Note, many of these tricks can be gained in other ways, by simply playing a psionic race or the like.  It's probably more effective too, and heck if you overcommit to this you are going to be a really crappy Psion.  Additionally, a lot of them would require DM approval since the DM would need to approve that you qualify.  Some of these can be skipped by playing a psionic race and then just using additional points/powers from the Vestige, but others cannot.  Overall, this is here for completeness, not because it's good.
(click to show/hide)

Wait, Psicrystals get Feats?
Yes.  Unlike familiars (which retain the HD of the base creature, but use 1/2 your HP as their HP), psicrystals have HD equal to your HD.  Since they have HD (like animal companions), and have an Int score (like animal companions), they have feats.  A lot of people picture them as familiars, so they're surprised to learn this (though familiars too have feats; they have whatever feats the base animal has but never gain more).  Literally, the only support for the fact that they don't have feats is the "-" listed under advancement on pg207 in the Psicrystal entry.  My suspicion for this is because psicrystals (generally) don't advance on their own. Note that on the same page that psicrystal has a feat (Alertness) and that its characteristics "depend on its master".  This has been argued to death.  Psicrystals have feats.

Alright, alright, I believe you! Did I hear that James Jacobs wrote a Vestige?
He did, named The Green Lady (name drop for Ctrl + F). I didn't include it because it's homebrew, and feels a bit OP to me.  It has the abilities of a Level 3 Vestige, a Level 4 Vestige, more abilities, and it's Level 2 (you can start the game with it).  Early game, Color Spray is overwhelming, and late game it's never worse than a Nerveskitter in every encounter.  It has all the synergy that Tenebrous has, and the Prestige Class he made swaps BAB and Saves for an additional Caster Level/Vestige Level bump.  Caster levels are the most important thing in the game, so I'm not sure that's a fair trade (on top of the fact that there is a Divine Spell to fix your BAB).  Here it is, but only because you ask.  I recommend that it not be used.
(click to show/hide)

Can you bind the same vestige more than once?
The rules don't say that you can't! That being said, the rules DO set up a binary situation in my eyes. You gain powers when you are bound to a Vestige (On) and you don't have those powers when you are not bound to that Vestige (Off).  Even if the DM lets you bind the same Vestige multiple times, it doesn't actually seem like there's any benefit to do so. I believe it was at one point ruled by CustServ that you could not, but even when it wasn't I don't see how it actually DID anything.

What are the Binding DCs for the Epic Vestiges?
According to the author:
  • Gaia 39
  • Zuriel 43
  • Amun-her Khepeshef 47
  • Tkhaluuljin 49
« Last Edit: July 12, 2015, 07:44:16 PM by Sobolev »

Offline Sobolev

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Re: The Binder Handbook: Let's Make a Deal
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2015, 06:02:19 PM »
Epic Binders:
In the last Dragon Magazine of 3.5, #363 were the rules for Epic Binders.  I'm not going to actually go over "tips" for the Epic Vestiges.  Their power level is so high it's almost impossible to recommend things, and it's almost impossible to mess them up.  I'm just posting the article because it's so hard to find now.  If anyone has a objection (in particular the author) please PLEASE just tell me.  It's reproduced in its entirety on the Wizards boards as well and the article isn't actually up anymore. 

Epic Binders by Eytan Bernstein
04/07/2008
Dragon Features Archive
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« Last Edit: June 28, 2015, 12:05:52 AM by Sobolev »