Welcome to a series of short articles dedicated to sharing optimization concepts and combos from my personal playbook. While not as ground-shaking as my larger projects like the 100^10 Elite Optimization Challenge, Nanobots, the Twice-Betrayer of Shar, etc, I hope you enjoy these Dirty Tricks for what they are -- carefully explored pathways to optimization power.
Dirty Trick #1: Behold!
Through use of Polymorph any Object and Metamorphic Transfer, characters can qualify for Beholder Mage, a kickarse class.
Beholder Mage (prestige class) [Lords of Madness, pg 42-44]
Polymorph any Object (spell) [Players Handbook, pg 263]
Beholder (creature) [Monster Manual, pg 25]
Metamorphic Transfer (feat) [Expanded Psionics Handbook, pg 48]
The Beholder Mage has three tricky requirements to meet. Two are listed up front: the character must be a "true beholder," and must "put out central antimagic eye." Hidden in the Spells section, the third requirement surfaces: "whenever a beholder mage gains the ability to cast a new level of spells, it must sacrifice the use of its eye rays from one of its ten small eyestalks."
The first is fairly simple. A "true beholder" is a racial distinction, differentiated from type, subtype, and even the "beholderkin" psuedotype. Normally, polymorph, alter self, and shapechange grant the "type" or "form" of a creature, but not race. However, Polymorph any Object spell is different. It says:
Quote: Originally Posted by SRD 3.5, Polymorph any Object
This spell functions like polymorph, except that it changes one object or creature into another.
In the above wording there is none of this "form of" crap -- one creature or object becomes another creature or object, a ruling specifically differentiated from the previous half-arsedness of polymorph/alter self. So, if we were to pick "true beholder" as our designated new creature type, the target (presumably a character wanting to get some Beholder Mage power) would change into a true beholder, race and all. Due to quirks of the spell, the new true beholder would retain previous class features and abilities, but would be no less the beholder for it.
The second, "must put out central antimagic eye" has been a real stumbling block for people who previously considered entry into Beholder Mage. The trouble centers around the fact that while Polymorph any Object does grant the target a true central eye, the lack of supernatural abilities means that there is nothing formally "antimagic" about this semi-vestigial oculus. There are two ways to go about answering this problem -- one is to say that "central antimagic eye" refers to the eye commonly known for its antimagic properties, and thus "antimagic" is just an extra clarifier term since the phrase "central antimagic eye" literally never appears as-is anywhere else in any 3.5 book. According to this school of thought, poking out the vestigial central eye should be enough to count. I don't buy it. It would be a tough sell at best, especially to a potentially hard-line DM or RAW Lawyer.
The other way of thinking about the matter is to identify "antimagic central eye" with the eye from with the "Antimagic Cone" supernatural ability of true beholders is emitted. Thus, to give up such an antimagic ability, one must possess it in the first place. This is where Metamorphic Transfer comes in. This nifty feat actually lets you "gain" a supernatural ability from the powers of a creature that you shapechange into. The uses of said ability are limited, but what is important is the gaining, or possession of the ability, not the exercise thereof. Thus, the antimagic cone (su) ability can be obtained at the price of one feat, and can be then sacrificed for the greater good.
Once we're familiar with Metamorphic Transfer, the third issue, eye-ray-to-spell-stalk conversion matter falls into place quite nicely. As it turns out, all of the eye rays are listed as a single supernatural ability, "Eye Rays (su)" in the descriptive text and the stats block for the True Beholder, and can be thus snagged in one fell swoop with a single Metamorphic Transfer. I know some people may be saying, "hey, but the rays can do different things, aren't they individual powers?" The answer is typical D&D rules quirkiness -- by all measurable standards of power-identification (grouped listing in the statistics block for supernatural abilities, a single descriptive text header with (su) identifier, non-distinctive power listing, etc), the disparate capabilities of a Beholder's little eyes are technically all part of one single supernatural capability. One psionic feat later, you have the use of eye-rays to sacrifice, and your Beholder-Mage is set for liftoff!
Making It Work
So, how soon can we slide into the Beholder Mage Class? Assuming that the character has 17 Int or higher a single application of Polymorph Any Object is can be permanent. Whether through Use Magic Device'ing a scroll (3,000 gp) or paying up for NPC spellcasting (1,200 gp), Beholderification should be available around 4th level for the average PC by DMG wealth standards.
Metamorphic Transfer is a slightly slower matter -- the "manifester level 5th" requirement means that obtaining it twice will have to wait until 5th or 6th level, taking advantage of a Psion/Psychic Warrior's 5th level bonus feat and the usual 6th level freebie. Of course, obtaining the prerequisite supernatural abilities could be accomplished through Shapechange or Master of Many Forms, but these options are generally slower and more time-sensitive than the aforementioned options.
Double Your Pleasure
So, now you're a Beholder Mage. Enjoy gaining a new level of available spells every time you advance. Have fun advancing in caster level twice as fast as everyone else. Spontaneous casting from an unlimited spell list? To put it colloquially, "Daaaaaang."
Decuple Your Fun
Did I forget to mention that you can cast 10 spells a round... all as free actions? Let that one brew for a while, then treat yourself to the first build opportunity ever to grant 9th-level arcane spellcasting and 9th level manifesting, simultaneously.
PsiArcane Abomination: Psion 9/Beholder Mage 2/Cerebremancer 8/XYZ 1
Monstrous Ur-Theurge: Psychic Warrior 5/XYZ 1/Beholder Mage 2/Ur-Priest 2/Mystic Theurge 8/XYZ 2
Pure EyeMage: Psion 6/Beholder Mage 2/Cerebremancer 1/Incantrix 10/XYZ 1
Dedicated Beholderform Caster: Psion 6/Beholder Mage 2/Cerebremancer 2/Master Transmogrifist 10
Dirty Trick #2: The Perpetual Damage Machine
A number of damage-creating/redirecting spells can be used in tandem to create a self-sustaining pattern of infinite damage involving creatures of your choice. This infinite damage can be used for your own benefit.
Share Pain (power) [Expanded Psionics Handbook, pg 132]
Glory of the Martyr (spell) [Players Guide to Faerun pg 103, Book of Exalted Deeds, pg 99-100]
Delay Death (spell) [Races of Destiny pg 165]
Beastland Ferocity (spell) [Planar Handbook, pg 95]
Four or more participants other than the primary character.
A bucket of water.
Cast Glory of the Martyr, targetting four or more willing creatures of your choice. These could be teammates, hired NPCs, animal companions, etc. Then, cast Share Pain once per creature, establishing the link directionality such that damage dealt to you is sent to them.
Consider the relationship between the caster and a single creature. The caster deals himself X damage. Thanks to Share Pain, the creature takes X/2 damage. Thanks to Glory of the Martyr, the caster takes X/4 damage. Since the caster gets back 1/4 of his original damage input from a single participant-spell-loop, we need four or more participants to get back the same amount we put in.
Let's do a test run. The caster drops a rock on his toe for 8 points of damage. The share pain iterations mean that 4 damage would be dealt to each of the participants. However, the glory of the martyr spell means that each of the participants only takes half of the share pain damage, while the caster is dealt 2 points per participant, resulting in 8 points total dealt to the caster.
That's one cycle. In the end, the caster is dealt 8 points of damage, the same amount as when we started. This 8 damage starts the whole cycle over again instantaneously, and the system begins to loop infinitely. Result: 4 damage dealt to the caster an infinite amount of times, resulting in infinite damage. The participants take 2 damage an infinite amount of times, also resulting in infinite damage. Given that no time is expended for this to work, this infinite damage is effectively dealt all in the same round, for as long as the system persists.
It's also important to note that if there are more than four participants, the amount of damage will continue to increase, as the cycle will be ending with more damage dealt to the the caster than was done at the start. The approximate formula is: (Original Damage) x (Number of Participants x 1/4)^(Cycle Number). The end result of this situation is infinite damage dealt an infinite amount of times. This is normally not desirious, especially if your participants are not immune to death from massive damage or would like to make concentration checks to cast spells.
To do more than spectacularly explode with this trick, you need to do three things: stay alive during the loop, power some useful ability, and make it back afterwards.
The first priority is simply not instantly collapsing as your hit points zoom to negative infinity. I suggest the Delay Death spell or the Frenzied Berserker's "Deathless Frenzy" ability. Both have limited duration, but your damage is no object.
Still, being alive but unconscious (in the "dying" state) is pretty uncool, too. You can use Beastland Ferocity, the Diehard feat, Boar's Ferocity (a Wild feat from Complete Divine), or Shifter Ferocity from Eberron to maintain functionality, i.e. continue to take actions.
I'm all ears for other options, since none of these have particularly nice durations without my Twice Betrayer (http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=478716) persistification trick.
If you want to cast spells more efficiently, you can effectively share these "life support" spells by virtue of the War Weaver prestige class's "Eldritch Tapestry," the Affinity Field power, those spell-sharing gloves from the DMG II, or by having your participants be your familiar/animal companion/special mount and benefit from the "Share Spells" ability.
Damage converted to Power
So, you're bursting with infinite damage. Now do it with style.
The bland way to do this would be to redirect the damage to your enemies. Affinity Field or Forced Share Pain are probably the best way to do this.
However, if you're really interested in versatility, consider the "Holy Suffering" ability of the Martyred Champion of Ilmater (Players Guide to Faerun, page 185. Whenever dealt more than 50 damage in a round, the next round your character receives a +1 sacred bonus to attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks for every 10 points of damage. That's right, +Infinity on your vital stats. Kickarse.
The masochism spell from the Book of Vile Darkness produces the same effect, too, if you're into that sort of thing.
While we're talking about the BoVD, check out the rules for sacrificing creatures. The power outputs (spell effects, virtual XP and GP) are dependent entirely on a Knowledge: Religion check. Combo with masochism for infinite craft-xp/gp gain from sacrificing a kobold...
Making it Back
Alright, you've had your power trip, and now it's time to pay the price. There are two ways out: suck it up and die, or somehow bring your hit points back to manageable levels. In both situations, you should dismiss your damage-dealing spells and let the loop fizzle first.
If you're feeling dirty, go the cheap way and stick your head in a bucket of water. The DMG's rules on drowning say that if you fail your constitution check, you go directly to 0 hit points exactly. So, voluntarily fail your constitution check and go from negative infinity to 0 without any hassle. Talk about baptismal rebirth...
A few spells replicate this drowning mechanic, or other wise set hit points at a manageable point from which contingent healing spells, fast healing, or your friendly cleric can take over. Miasma [Complete Divine] and drown are such spells to consider.
If you're feeling studly, don't be afraid to bite the dust. Contingent true resurrections are alright if you have the cash, and taking the 10th level in Ardent Dilettante means that you'll suffer no side effects even from lesser (i.e. cheaper) raise-dead/resurrection spells. Still, if you're dirty and cheap, snag Revivify from the Miniature's Handbook. It's a 5th level spell that resurrects with no side effects, but only works the round after someone's death. A friendly cleric could pick up the slack, but if you're the self-reliant type, cast/UMD it on yourself in conjunction with Delay Spell, and time it to activate the round after you bite it.
Sample Build: The Infinite Martyr of Ilmater
Classes: Cleric 7/Martyred Champion of Ilmater 5/Wizard 1/Psion 3/Beastmaster 4
Relevant Feats: Endurance, Nimbus of Light, Skill Focus (handle animal), Psicrystal Affinity, Delay Spell, Divine Metamagic (Delay Spell)
Relevant Special Abilities: Holy Suffering, 2 Animal Companions, Psicrystal, Familiar
Not exactly elegant, but that's never been Lawful Good's forte. However, the Infinite Martyr is entirely self-sufficient to produce a Perpetual Damage Mechanism, benefit from it, and make it out alive. The assorted magical companions are there to provide willing participants which efficiently share sustaining spells without the insecurities of relying on teammates or unfortunate peasants.
Q: Wouldn't the original damage be split up between the different Share Pain iterations and thus give diminishing returns?
A: In answering this question, the first thing to remember in resolving this damage loop is that damage is not a conserved quantity. The spells/powers involved actually deal damage according to a trigger, not move around a limited amount of damage. All of the damage-related spells involved prevent "one half of the normal hit point damage" from a wound, and then deal damage equal to the amount "not dealt to the warded creature." This means that multiple iterations of Share Pain (etc) result in the caster taking one-half of the normal damage from a wound, rather than [1/(2*Number of Share Pain iterations)] damage. We could also make the argument from the standpoint of the spell-stacking rules, but the result is the same: having a bunch of Share Pains on your character still means s/he takes exactly half damage from any given wound.
Q: I like this dirty trick, but it's not as good as...
A: Yes, there are a few other infinite loop or nigh-infinite loop combos out there. This trick is just a new one with its own quirks, possibilities, and a healthy dose of style.
Q: Haven't you made enough [Descriptive Title] of [Faerunian God] builds?
A: Apparently, not quite yet. ;)
A specific version of the Perpetual Damage Machine is currently being used to challenge mighty Pun-Pun. Please go here (http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.php?t=546612) to read the details and direct any Pun-Pun related comparisons or comments there as well.
Dirty Trick #3: Attack of the Clones
The Wu Jen spell Body outside Body can be made widely available, semi-permanent, and terribly useful for constructing synergetic clone combos.
Body outside Body (spell) [Complete Arcane, pg 100]
Artificer (class) [Eberron Campaign Setting, pg 29-33]
Extra Spell (feat) [Complete Arcane, pg 79-80]
Metamagic Item (infusion) [Eberron Campaign Setting, pg 113-114]
Recaster (prestige class) [Races of Eberron, pg 157-161]
Divine Metamagic (feat) [Complete Divine, pg 80]
Incantrix (prestige class) [Player's Guide to Faerun, pg 61-63]
From sci-fi epics to anime tropes to Zhentarim leaders, everybody loves clones. Body outside Body is the most efficient way in D&D to obtain self-duplicates, even though the creators of the spell thought they were keeping the cloning fun under control by preventing clones from casting spells. But what if one could cast this 7th level spell and get duplicates who are not only more useful than a bunch of neutered casters (read: medium-level commoners), but stuck around all day long? Preposterous!
This trick breaks down into three steps: getting ahold of Body Outside Body, selecting useful abilities that synergize when cloned, and making it work when you need it.
Getting Body Outside Body
Body outside Body is a 7th level Wu Jen spell, not exactly the most mainstream spell in the canon. Unless you want to deal with the less-than-spectacular Wu Jen spell-list, we'll have to steal Body outside Body for others to use. For full-casters of other classes, the simplest way of doing this is the Extra Spell feat, which allows characters to learn a new spell one level lower than their current maximum castable spell-level, regardless of original spell-list source. This means that the character will have to obtain 8th level spellcasting, a fairly easy goal.
Alternately, the Recaster prestige class offers the extended knowledge class feature at 2nd and 4th level which essentially mimics the Extra Spell feat without costing a precious feat-slot of your own. It comes at the price of a single-level drop in spellcasting progression and a straightjacketed race, but if you're strapped for feats, it's the way to go. Finally, the Artificer, or any Use-Magic-Device expert, can effectively reproduce the spell with items at relatively low cost.
LoP(tm) Brand Long-Lasting Clones
Making it work when you need it is surprisingly simple for one big reason: Body outside Body is persistifiable. That is to say, it has a fixed range, and thus we can apply the Persistent Spell metamagic feat to it. Day-long clones, rather than one-minute wonders? Yikes. Since Body outside Body is a 7th level spell, we'll have to use metamagic shenanigans to apply Persistent Spell pre-epic. The usual suspects show up: Divine Metamagic, the Spelldancer's spelldancing, the Incantrix's metamagic effect, and the Metamagic Item for Artificers. All have the same result: 24-hour duplicates.
The big point of customization for this trick is selecting a build which results in a character that plays well when duplicated. The ground work of obtaining Body outside Body and persistification taken care of, the wide world of possibilities lie before us. The important caveat to remember is that your duplicates keep pretty much every capability of the original except the capacity to actually cast spells or use spell-trigger items.
Alternate power systems are the very first to spring to mind. Psionics and Incarnum. Both can be developed side-by-side with the spellcasting capacity necessary to get to Body outside Body, via the Cerebremancer or Soulcaster prestige classes. Your clones may not be able to cast spells per se, but obtaining the services of three or more high-level nearly-full-progression psions or soulmelders at the price of a single Body outside Body spell isn't shabby at all.
Things get even more awesome when we consider the inherent flexibility of psionics and incarnum. Load up assorted Incarnum feats then produce a bunch of duplicates who can invest their essentia into different abilities. Crank out a squad of mid-to-high-level psions to metaconcert with, or better, go nova in your place. If versatility is your thing, learn psychic chirurgery and psychic reformation and have your duplicates rearrange themselves to learn powers useful for the immediate situation which weren't anticipated with your main character's power selection. Finally, if things get a little crowded, top it all off with fusion to recombine your duplicates, merging into a single being with insane power points, a wide variety of powers manifestable, and utter expendability in a single glorious multi-nova.
The Artificer has a knack for coming out just as good as anyone, and this trick is no exception. Infusions are very clearly not spells, so when an Artificer uses metamagic item to persistify a Body outside Body staff, the duplicates are 90% functional artificers. Sure, they can't use wands or staffs themselves, but they're a nearly-free source of miscellaneous infusions, skill-monkeying, and free crafting. Since the BoB clones only last a day, they're limited to around 1000 gp/item, but with Exceptional Artisan to speed up the process and retain essence to reap the rewards, they're worth the investment of a single staff charge.
All sorts of miscellaneous class features synergize with this particular Dirty Trick. A straight-up arcane Incantrix can appreciate the benefit of a bunch of BoB clones using cooperative metamagic or metamagic effect to enhance the original's spells. If you plan ahead and purchase extra spellcraft-enhancing items, Incantrix clones have the potential to partner up with every caster in your party, adding metamagic powers without ever having to use spells themselves.
Chameleon is a tempting prospect for those willing to take a hit to spellcasting. A two-level dip earns each duplicate a free-floating feat for each clone to use differently. Excellent free-floaters include Shape Soulmeld and Expanded Knowledge. Dip deeply enough, and your character will be able to replicate the better part of a party all by himself. Himselves. Whatever.
The list goes on and on. Warlock is nasty and nice, since Invocations are officially not spells and your BoB clones would be 100% blast-and-cast ready. If the BoB-user isn't dead-set on being a full-caster, there are countless prestige classes that offer independently-useful abilities that don't rely on spellcasting. Even though alternate-system (infusions, incarnum, psionics) combos are probably the most spectacular, any prestige class or feat that enables either stacking synergy or versatility are good to choose when you use this Dirty Trick.
Extremely Basic: Wu Jen 3/Psion 3/Cerebremancer 10/Spelldancer 1/XYZ 3
Metamagic Madness: Wizard 5/Incantrix 10/Recaster 5
Incarnum Expert:Cleric or Wizard 3/Incarnate 3/Soulcaster 10/XYZ 4
Artificer Knows Best: Artificer 20
Beholder BoB: Psion 6/Beholder Mage 2/Cerebremancer 8/Thrallherd 4
One-Man Team: Artificer 12/Chameleon 8
Ur-Cloner:Psion or Incarnate 10/Ur-Priest 2/Psychic Theurge or Sapphire Heirarch 8
Your Build Here:
Clown Car Feats: When using Fusion on your clones, remember that your feats are pooled. This means that if you've selected self-stacking feats, you've suddenly multiplied their benefits. Think "Extra Turning," "Extra/Rapid Stunning," "Extra Wild Shape," "Extra Smiting," "Extra/Extended Rage," "Toughness," or "Improved Damage Reduction" for small fry, or "Extra Slot," "Extra Invocation," and "Familiar Spell" for serious self-synergy.
Every Psionic Power: Learn psychic reformation and psychic chirurgery. Make some clones, and have them use psychic reformation on themselves to learn powers you don't know already. Then, have them manifest psychic chirurgery, footing the XP bill themselves, to transplant those powers directly into the original. Do this enough times, and you'll know every power in existence. Yum.
Unlimited Permanent Wealth: Without abusing the D&D set market prices, even! Psionic-capable BoB clones + True Creation. Again, the clones foot the XP bill. Have them do it on your own free Genesis-created demi-plane. Augmented with free items made by bend reality and reality revision. While vicariously remote viewing all of the enemies your clones identified with metafaculty, but have been stripped of all their powers by apopsi. Or, if an artificer, sipping from your unlimited supply of cherry-flavored potions. And other such Dirty-Trick-enabled luxuries.
Q: Hey, some of your sample builds aren't optimal. What about...
A: Excellent. They're meant to be samples, so any improvements suggested or entirely new BoB Builds would be most welcome.
Q: Are you sure Extra Spell works like that? Divine casters shouldn't be able to ahold of arcane spells and then apply divine metamagic to them.
A: Even though the Extra Spell feat is in Complete Arcane, its requirements and technical wording are arcane/divine blind. Furthermore, any given spell isn't inherently "arcane" or "divine," it's just available to certain classes who may cast spells as arcane or divine. Look at all the spells that are on multiple spell lists.
Q: Can anyone actually use this trick? I don't know if my sane DM would allow...
A: This particular Dirty Trick is pretty actual-game-friendly, since it primarily uses material from the generally respectable Complete books, and the level of power yield depends both on long-term build planning and player creativity in character. I've actually tried it out a few times, and the hilarious roleplaying implications of cloning typically outweigh any backlash from heavy optimization.
Q: What about psionic-magic transparency? Wouldn't that mean that BoB clones can't use psionic powers?
A: There are two approaches to this, both of which result in agreeing that BoB clones should be capable of using psionics.
The first is the "enumerated effects" approach, which Tleilaxu_Ghola expressed nicely. Because the magic-psionics transparency rule has a specific part where it explains how things works mechanically, we have a solid standard. Since loss of power manifesting as a result of spellcasting loss is not one of the facets of the interaction rules, the transparency rule says that manifesting capability and spellcasting capability are functionally independent.
The second approach is to use clear precedent. Consider the mental pinnacle spell in the Expanded Psionics Handbook and SRD. Mental pinnacle gives the character psionic manifesting capability, and then says that "you lose your spellcasting ability." If we were to interpret loss of ability to cast spells as the loss of ability to manifest powers, then this spell would do exactly nothing. Certainly, this single case is not a definitive ruling, but it is a valuable precedent confirming RAW support for the independence of manifesting capability and spellcasting capability.
Dirty Trick #4: The Nasty Gentlemen
Symbiont's "Share Spell" ability and capability of taking actions allows for the wild synergetic multiplication of many spells' effects.
Symbionts (creatures) [Magic of Eberron, pg 153-158]
Cerebral Symbionts (creatures) [Fiend Folio, pg 216-218]
Fiendish Symbionts (creatures) [Fiend Folio, pg 218-222]
Impure Prince (prestige class) [Magic of Eberron, pg 73-76]
Symbiont Master (feat) [Magic of Eberron, pg 51]
Spontaneous Summoner (feat) [Complete Divine, pg 85]
Symbionts are handy. Err, "tentacle-y." They're entirely portable, have few, if any, formal limitations on the amount that can bond with a single host, and provide a host of minor benefits to careful users, including minor stat boosts, increased hit points, and spell-like abilities. Nice, but hardly impressive.
Now let's go back to an often-overlooked aspect of symbionts: each symbiont has the "symbiont" subtype. Old news. Now add this: the symbiont subtype includes the "Share Spells" ability. Huh, has potential. Let's throw in the fact that this Share Spells ability is better than the familiar ability by the same name AND you can have as many of these buggers as you can find/buy/etc. Getting somewhere. Next, realize that a good portion of the symbionts retain their ability to take independent (though directed) actions, including attacks. Neat, now only if they could do something with all of these actions. Enter spellcasting.
There is a host of powerful spells which give a character some capability which requires action to activate. These spells are shared with all of a character's symbionts, who can use their own actions (attacks, move actions, full-round-actions, standard actions, swift actions, etc) to gain offensive, defensive, or general-utility benefit. The result is that a single casting of a spell intended to be used only once a round can be multiplied hundreds of times over.
It keeps getting better.
Amazingly easy to do. As Magic of Eberron suggests, players can essentially consider symbionts as treasure for the purpose of wealth calculation. The base prices range from 1,000 to 8,000 gp, reasonably accessible at all levels. For the more economically-minded or particularly outrageous symbiont-using gentleperson, the Impure Prince prestige class allows you to lure symbionts for only 100 gp a pop. If a Princely character is willing to spend all of their cash on becoming a tentacle monster, this translates to 7,600 symbionts by level 20.
Alternately, a riskier manuever would be to Polymorph any Object objects or followers into symbionts for an additional boost in your ranks. Dispelling/disjunctioning would be a real risk, but until then, the sky's the limit.
Gaining Benefit (boring title, crazy implications)
The reason for the title of this Dirty Trick comes from the mental image of a character truly taking advantage of its implications: a perfectly sophisticated and dignified-looking spellcaster who erupts into a mass of churning tentacles, grasping claws, spikes, spewing gouts of fire and brimstone, and striking with uncanny potency at a moment's notice.
Imagery aside, the best spells to pick for this trick are the ones which have a range of "Personal" and/or a target of "You." These spells are the ones easiest to share with your hundreds of glorified tapeworm buddies, and even better, are easily persistified through the usual metamagic routes. Out of this broad category, go for spells which add natural attacks, enable action-activated ranged abilities, enhance existing attack modes, or have a limited number of times which each individual "you" can use the spell. Alternately, if you're not concerned with repeatability, non-personal-range spells are also permitted and can be shared just as easily, if not for all day long.
Remember kids, the surgeon general says that playing with symbionts can be hazardous to your health, so stock up on ability-damage immunity, or at least make certain to befriend at least one divine spellcaster with a bucketfull of restoration handy. Sheltered Vitality from Libris Mortis, the Restoration and Heal chains, Construct Essence, and miscellaneous class/creature abilities are all WotC-approved methods of safe symbiosis.
I've compiled a basic list of good spells to consider below, but I'm wide open for any other options. Remember that if a spell produces negative side-effects (such as limiting spellcasting), you can always choose to have the spell affect your symbionts and not your Nasty Gentleman himself. This makes Nightstalker's Transformation, Tenser's Transformation, and Mental Pinnacle all excellent choices to produce a hyperdeadly, multi-talented mass of options.
Symbiont Synergetic Spells
Ranged Awesome Spells:
Dragon Breath (Wiz, Clr) [the Complete Divine version]
Righteous Glare (Wiz, Clr)
Lightning Ring (Wiz)
Undermaster (Wiz, Druid)
Nimbus of Light (Clr)
Skull Eyes (Initiate of Cyric)
Holy Star (Initiate of Mystra)
Stormrage (Clr, Druid)
Produce Flame (Druid)
Blinding Beauty (Druid, Clr)
Unearthly Beauty (Druid)
Cast in Stone (Druid)
Fist of Stone (Wiz)
Flame Dagger (Wiz)
Claw of Darkness (Wiz)
Body Blades (Clr)
Black Talon (Initiate of Cyric)
Death Dragon (Clr)
Spore Cloak (Druid)
Toothed Tentacle (Wiz)
Venomfire (Clr, Druid)
Critical Strike (Wiz)
Grave Strike (Wiz, Clr)
Vine Strike (Druid)
Nightstalker's Transformation (Wiz)
Mental Pinnacle (Wiz)
Tenser's Transformation (Wiz)
Divine Favor (Clr)
War Cry (Bard)
Kiss of the Vampire (Wiz)
Divine Sacrifice (Paladin)
Touch of Jorasco (Clr)
Dispel Evil/Good/Law/Chaos (Clr)
Arms of Plenty (Wiz)
The Arcane Nasty Gentleman: Wizard 5/Incantrix 10/Impure Prince 5
This chap sneaks into Impure Prince using Extra Spell to gain Summon Nature's Ally, then Spontaneous Summoner to qualify for Gatekeeper Initiate, the final pre-req. Impure Prince costs a single level of casting progression, but having top-notch metamagic and cheap symbionts is worth the dip.
The Unnatural Gentleman: Druid 14/Master of Radiance 1/Impure Prince 5
Venomfire. Extra Spell: Divine Power. Divine Metamagic. Energy Admixture and Twin. The Tentacle Whip symbiont has a built-in poison attack. 76d6 per attack times 4 attacks per tentacle times 7,600 tentacles. We're averaging 8 million damage a round, and that's not even optimized.
The Double-Aberrent-Ironic Gentleman:
Psychic Warrior 5/Ranger 1/Beholder Mage 1/Impure Prince 5/Ur-Priest 2/Mystic Theurge 6
Lotsa spell options. Lotsa self-hatred. Lotsa awesome.
Q: Oh. Em. Eff. Gee. 8 million damage a round. At very least.
A: Damn straight.
Q: Thousands of tentacles? That's just nasty.
A: I know, I know. Don't blame me, blame Keith Baker. And maybe anime.
Q: Um. What about BoB Cloning with this? Or Nanotech?
A: You don't even want to get me started...
Q: But doesn't the Impure Prince's "Lure Symbiont" ability limit a character to one symbiont at a time?
A: Nope. The ability specifies that you can obtain a new symbiont whenever your old one "gets killed or lost." It says nothing about your old one staying dead or lost. Thus, a suitably nasty gentleman can kill or maze his original symbiont, only to raise or retrieve the little guy after obtaining a new friend to play with.
Q: What if all of your symbionts don't want to do what you tell them? Wouldn't you need some way to control them to prevent continually having to make Will saves to keep doing the things you want to do?
A: Yep. Gotta keep them in line somehow, unless you're playing a LE Aberration-minded truly Ungentle Nastyman. Here are some good methods of symbiont-taming:
- In-Character Role-Playing Jibber-Jabber
- Necrotic Tumor
- Geas/Quest and Lesser Geas
- Planar Ally (Lesser, Standard, Greater)
- Planar Binding (Lesser, Standard, Greater)
- Custom Summoning Variant + Halaster's Fetch
- Polymorph / Polymorph any Object
- Undead Control (Rebuking, Spell-Based Control, Direct Raising)
The very last one is new. I noticed that the Zombie and Skeleton templates allow raised creatures to keep their old subtypes. Therefore, the most easily available undead symbionts retain the all-important Share Spells ability. So, lure/purchase a symbiont, kill it, and raise it as a loyal undead minion. Combined with General of Undeath and Undead Lieutenant, being a Nasty Necromancer Gentleman has never been better!