3.5 Spell Selection for a Bard/Sublime Chord

Greenfield

Adventurer
I'm running a Half Satyr Bard/Sublime Chord who's about to hit 19th level.

As a Sublime chord the character gets a selection of Wizard/Sorcerer spells. A Bard, as the base class, says that that he's essentially two levels behind in spell levels. Therefore he's about to get his first 9th level spell, and one of only two he'll earn in our campaign.

Wish is an obvious choice, but unless he's going to be burning EP by the bucketload, it's not a spell he'll use more than a few times, ever.

I'm thinking of Gate, for pure versatility.

Shape Change is extremely broken, as you know, but a lot of that "broken" is already available through Polymorph Any Object. He can turn into practically anything, and the only thing he lacks is the ability to keep changing every round.

As a note: Our campaign has forbidden Teleport and it's near relatives (although Dimension Door is allowed). Same for Raise Dead, Resurrection and True Resurrection.

Now, knowing as I do that there are people here with far more extensive rule knowledge than I have, I thought I'd ask for some ideas.
 
Other than being a Sublime Chord and a Satyr is there anything else you can tell us? Personality; theme selection for spells? I'd hate to recommend something like Summon Elemental Monolith when you want nothing to do with summoning.

PS: Please tell me the character's name is Torgo!
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
His name is Pendaclese, and yes, it means exactly what you think it does. His father, the full Satyr, had great hopes for his son. :)

Personality? We're playing in a Grecco-Roman setting, and he's from Greece. He worships Dionysius, the patron of wine and mad drunken parties. (Also divine madness in battle, though that isn't Pen's thing). When I first brought him in I warned the other players that he had nothing resembling a Wisdom score when a pretty woman was involved. He put skill points into "Perform - Seduction".

He's a Diplomancer (Current Diplomacy skill gives him a +30-something on the roll), and has scored in the 50s on his Perform checks.

He is a party animal, and has been dressed down by at least one divine authority for being far too frivolous. His recurring line has been, "That sounds like fun".

In the "Party Animal" role, he's taken spells that can change water into wine (transmutes any liquid into any other, if he has a sample of the desired one), which is a 1st level spell, and taken others that provide good food in large quantities. (Heroes Feast and Grand Estate, which is a variant on Magnificent Mansion) So when he throws a party, it's a hell of a party.

His view/explanation on this is, "Satyr's are, by nature, spirits of fulfillment. The very words for fulfillment are derived from the name of my people: To Sate, Satiate or Satisfy. Thus, wherever we go, it is our nature that there should always be an abundance of good food, good drink, and good music."

Necessity has forced him to be the main offensive spell caster in the group, not because he's a big time blaster, but because nobody else has really stepped up to the job. It's something he's good at, but not because he likes doing it. It just needs to be done. (Runestaff's are a great way to supplement a narrow spell selection, by the way.)

There's a dark side as well. In game, he's heard a prophesy about his own death from Apollo himself, one which he jokes about. Because of his 1 level in Sandshaper, he needed a feat: Touchstone - City of the Dead, which essentially gives him a psychic link to a necropolis, as a source of power. He's been hunted by the Celtic Wild Hunt (gatherer of souls in Ireland/Scotland), hunted with them, and had a post hunt feast with Vandos, who leads that hunt. (We were hunting boar, not people that night). He's spent 10 days in service to the avatar of Ra, in his role as the Egyptian gatherer of souls, as we guided those souls down the Nile to the Palace of Two Truths (halls of judgment). And he's been to the gateways of the land of the dead so many time the gatekeepers know him by name. He has shared drinks with Hades, by the shore of the river Styx. For these reasons, among others, he's been banished from his home village. The elders said, "Death follows you like a loyal hound, and you call it to your side for comfort." The simple fact is, some of his friends are scarier than his enemies. In some ways, he looks forward to his own death. He can see his family in the Elysian Fields, something he can't do now. And if they died before him? Well, like I said, he's known at Death's Door, and is more welcome there than in his own home town.

Yeah, a dark side. As a side effect of this, he shuns anything that even hints at necromancy.

He was taken as a slave in his younger days, and badly used. For that reason he avoids the use of Charm or Dominate types spells. To enslave someone's mind is worse than enslaving their body, as far as he's concerned.

If you want to see more of him, I wrote up a number of our adventures, in story form, over on the Story Hour forum. They're a few pages down now, but they're collected under the general heading "Curse of Darkness". While the stories cover and include everyone in our party, he features rather prominently.

Does any of that help?
 
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A couple of thoughts:

1) Foresight (PHB) - You are aware of your death. Today is not the day. Death itself watches out for you to ensure that you arrive at your ultimate destiny!

2) Time stop (PHB) - How else are you going to get plates and drinks set for everyone?

3) Reaving Dispel (CArc) - Why buff when the enemies can do it for you! Wasn't that nice of them?

4) Sphere of Ultimate Destruction (CArc) - Like disintegrate but on steroids. Plus, if the thief can't get you past a lock, you can.

5) Unbinding (CD) - You've known the bonds of slavery. No one else shall!

6) Disjunction (PHB) - Because you can. ;)

7) Superior Invisibility - Even Death can't find you.

8) Summon Monster IX / Elemental Monolith - All battles need could use even more monsters to keep track of.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Superior Invisibility has a problem: It silences the recipient. Bad news for a Bard.

As a Sandshaper, he already has Summon Desert Ally IX, which is quite similar to Summon Monster IX. Also, Gate can replicate that power as well, and can pull in bigger creatures.

Time Stop is neat for a lot of things, particularly buffing spells. Problem is, as a Bard my job is to buff everyone, not just me.

Still and all, a good set of suggestions.
 

Empirate

Visitor
Note at start: I'm arguing from a "what's good" standpoint here, not from a "might fit your character" standpoint.


For sheer versatility, which a Bard's small spells known list might lack, there is and there always will be Shapechange (as you pointed out yourself), and I'd much rather use that on myself than PAO! Unlimited options at your fingertips. Decide with your DM beforehand whether you'd gain a Planetar's spellcasting, though...

Also, Shades is rather better than many people give it credit for. It isn't limited to the Summoning and Creation subschools (like Shadow Conjuration is), so you can use it to replicate e.g. planar binding, maze, acid fog... and all the neat Conjuration splatbook spells. Even with teleport spells out of the picture, Shades is an OK choice.

Gate is the obvious powerhouse option. Nothing matches this spell in sheer power. It's rather ridiculous, actually, even with the XP cost. A thousand XP is OK to afford for the additional firepower it can give you in boss battles.

Wish is mostly a plot device IMO, even though it can be a (costly) way to gain more options. If you really, really, desperately need some thing or piece of knowledge that you couldn't otherwise obtain at the time, Wish will help you out, but as I said, this is often just as a way to further the plot. Don't spend your resources to do the DM's job for him! You can also use it to increase the whole party's ability scores (if you have a bit of downtime and Scribe Scroll, that is, since you normally can't cast the spell five times in quick succession), but that's super expensive and not really worth it IMO. I'd shy away from Wish for the expectations it will engender in your fellow players and certain kinds of DM.

Time Stop is fine if you have other stuff that just has to happen in the first round of combat. Otherwise, overrated. Strictly a combo spell, not that great on its own.

Foresight is a bit like Time Stop, except it actually begs for Time Stop, as well. Good if your game is already rocket tag. Less good if you don't really have a way of winning the battle outright in the surprise round.

Astral Projection has horrible gamebreaking potential. If that is not used in full, the spell doesn't do much Plane Shift couldn't, and should never be considered.

You might want Wail of the Banshee for crowd control - although it's a bit hit-or-miss. Weird is strictly weaker than this.

Disjunction is for when you don't like treasure. Do you like treasure? Don't take.

Those are the big ones in my book. The rest of the PHB spells sucks and is highly overrated in level. Similarly, few non-PHB 9th level spells even merit spending thought on them. Summon Elemental Monolith is OK, but do note that you want either the Sonorous Hum spell or the Familiar Concentration feat with it, otherwise controlling that monolith is what you do for the rest of the battle. SEM brings a combat monster to the fight and eats up all your actions doing it. Shapechange can change you into a combat monster while still allowing you to cast, should you require it. It also runs for hours on end, unlike SEM. SEM is much overrated for these reasons, IMHO.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
A good, thoughtful analysis. Thank you.

We've already decided that, should Gate be used as an advanced monster summoning, any spell effects that cost Exp requested from such creatures (such as Wish) will have that Exp cost paid for by the caster. We figured that that was a minimum safeguard.

At the same time, though, it makes Wish available through Gate, if the caster is willing to pay 6,000 Exp for it. (1000 for the Gate, and 5,000 for the Wish itself.

Alternately, one could use Gate to go to the plane of Air, where a Wish might be purchased for money or favors. Djinn can cast it once per day, no Exp cost, for non-Genii only. But, as noted, it's normally more of a plot device than a spell, and that way even more so. Which isn't a bad thing.
 

RUMBLETiGER

Visitor
I have enjoyed getting to know your character vicariously thru the storytelling.

Some Ideas:
- Since death brings you to a Literal Underworld, what would the spell Imprisonment do in your campaign, exactly?
-Foresight has great Roleplaying and campaign-muddling applications.
-Shades has oodles of versatility. That spell gives you dozens of other spells like Summon Everything, Walls Made Of Stuff, Create Whatever I Feel Like & I Control All Of The Battlefield.
-Power Word Kill ​will end combats for you and your party. Great and terrible power in your back pocket.
 
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Empirate

Visitor
Agree with all except PW:K. That's more or less the single weakest 9th level spell, because a) you need to know the target's HP total, and b) it only works against foes that have already been weakened, and c) it's mind-affecting and a death effect, so it won't work against quite a few monsters out there. No Power Word Killing a giant spider, for example, even though we're all familiar with that "Avada Kedavra!" scene...

So basically, the spell is a single-target blast that deals up to a hundred HP of damage, but only if the target doesn't have more HP than that and isn't immune to mind-affecting stuff. How is that worth a 9th level spell?!

As a finisher, stylish, but impractical. I'd rather keep an Empowered Maximized Orb of Force in my back pocket. It deals slightly less (potential) damage, but is more reliable. Or, you know, leave the damage dealing to my friend the Barbarian. Who could already do a hundred HP of damage ten levels ago.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Interesting suggestion. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but isn't that a really feeble spell, for 9th level? Let me explain my thinking: It's a 15 foot emanation. If they fail the Save they get Dazed. They take damage automatically, but not much. And there's nothing in the spell to keep them from simply walking out of the area. Even Dazed people can still take a 5 ft step, can't they? (Dazed gets no action, but 5 ft step is listed as "not an action" in the rules, IIRC.) Regardless of what the spell description says, the effective duration is a maximum of three rounds, the longest it could take to leave the area using 5 ft. steps. Wouldn't Tentacles do a better job of holding them?
 

Dandu

Visitor
Interesting suggestion. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but isn't that a really feeble spell, for 9th level? Let me explain my thinking: It's a 15 foot emanation. If they fail the Save they get Dazed. They take damage automatically, but not much. And there's nothing in the spell to keep them from simply walking out of the area. Even Dazed people can still take a 5 ft step, can't they? (Dazed gets no action, but 5 ft step is listed as "not an action" in the rules, IIRC.) Regardless of what the spell description says, the effective duration is a maximum of three rounds, the longest it could take to leave the area using 5 ft. steps. Wouldn't Tentacles do a better job of holding them?
1. Morbo says that Daze does not work like that.
2. Irresistible Dance them.
 

Empirate

Visitor
Interesting suggestion. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but isn't that a really feeble spell, for 9th level? Let me explain my thinking: It's a 15 foot emanation. If they fail the Save they get Dazed. They take damage automatically, but not much. And there's nothing in the spell to keep them from simply walking out of the area. Even Dazed people can still take a 5 ft step, can't they? (Dazed gets no action, but 5 ft step is listed as "not an action" in the rules, IIRC.) Regardless of what the spell description says, the effective duration is a maximum of three rounds, the longest it could take to leave the area using 5 ft. steps. Wouldn't Tentacles do a better job of holding them?
No 5' steps like others said, but even if those were possible, three rounds of dazing equals death in high level play. This is not about keeping the opposition where they are, this is about denying them actions of any kind, including purely mental stuff, supernatural abilities, words of recall, what-have-you. Moreover, nothing in the books is immune to daze effects (barring extremely few, very niche, not-likely-to-be-known-by-DMs immunities that are, in fact, available). Undead, Constructs, Oozes... the works. Just take care around demons...

Also, the damage is actually quite good. It's untyped, and it's 1d6/CL per round. That adds up quickly.

Tentacles? Targets are not unable to take actions, can make a check every round to escape, and lots of stuff is immune (or functionally immune due to high bonuses) to grapple attempts at the level we're talking about. Also, the damage is lousy. No comparison.


The reasons I'd still argue against Maw of Chaos are a) SR: Yes sucks, and b) this is a very good dual threat (blast/BC), but for a 9th level spell, likely one of only two the character will ever know, I'd excpect something more suited to telling the laws of physics to shut up, sit in a corner, and cry. You know, not just another combat tool, even if it's a very good one. Something a little more versatile, more comprehensive. Something capable of being used in near every situation where the party turns to you with that desperate, hopeful, puppydog, "And now what?!" look in their eyes.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Not sure why 5 foot steps are out when Dazed.

SRD said:
Dazed: The creature is unable to act normally. A dazed creature can take no actions, but has no penalty to AC.
A dazed condition typically lasts 1 round.
As noted, no specific mention of 5 foot step.

SRD said:
Not an Action: Some activities are so minor that they are not even considered free actions. They literally don’t take any time at all to do and are considered an inherent part of doing something else.
No Action

Delay
5-foot step
So, per the rules, a 5 foot step isn't an action, and isn't forbidden by Daze.

We've seen cases where Sage Advice and FAQs give advice which runs 180 degrees from what the rules say. I tend to take these sources as advice, not rules.

YMMV, of course, but that's how I read the RAW.

Oh, and Irresistable Dance is single target, range Touch. Kind of ruins the image of casting it by playing the Pan Flute. :(
 

Empirate

Visitor
Well, the clearest I can make it is that the infamous 5-foot step is neither a kind of action, nor is it not-an-action. Instead, it is something that can be done when you take certain actions, but not others. Looking through all the mentions of the 5-foot step in the SRD search for the term, it certainly seems like that - this is hard to pin on a single rules quote, though. The best rules quote in this regard is this one:

SRD said:
Move Action
A move action allows you to move your speed or perform an action that takes a similar amount of time. See Table: Move Actions.


You can take a move action in place of a standard action. If you move no actual distance in a round (commonly because you have swapped your move for one or more equivalent actions), you can take one 5-foot step either before, during, or after the action.
Repeated here:

SRD said:
Take 5-Foot Step
You can move 5 feet in any round when you don’t perform any other kind of movement. Taking this 5-foot step never provokes an attack of opportunity. You can’t take more than one 5-foot step in a round, and you can’t take a 5-foot step in the same round when you move any distance.


You can take a 5-foot step before, during, or after your other actions in the round.


You can only take a 5-foot step if your movement isn’t hampered by difficult terrain or darkness. Any creature with a speed of 5 feet or less can’t take a 5-foot step, since moving even 5 feet requires a move action for such a slow creature.


You may not take a 5-foot step using a form of movement for which you do not have a listed speed.
Important part bolded. If you read this to specifically spell out all the circumstances in which a 5-foot step is possible, it follows that you need to take an action of some kind in order to also take a 5-foot step. Since being dazed prohibits actions of any kind (even free actions), it also prohibits the good old 5-foot-get-out-of-jail-free-step.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Well, the clearest I can make it is that the infamous 5-foot step is neither a kind of action, nor is it not-an-action.
...
Important part bolded. If you read this to specifically spell out all the circumstances in which a 5-foot step is possible, it follows that you need to take an action of some kind in order to also take a 5-foot step. Since being dazed prohibits actions of any kind (even free actions), it also prohibits the good old 5-foot-get-out-of-jail-free-step.
By this read, nobody can take a 5 foot step unless they also swing a sword, cast a spell, do jumping jacks or dance a jig. Does that make any sense to you?

As for the "nor is it not an action" reference, "not an action" is exactly how the SRD describes it.
 

Empirate

Visitor
By this read, nobody can take a 5 foot step unless they also swing a sword, cast a spell, do jumping jacks or dance a jig. Does that make any sense to you?

As for the "nor is it not an action" reference, "not an action" is exactly how the SRD describes it.

Actually, yes, that makes perfect sense to me (except for the doing jumping jacks and dancing a jig part): normally, people move normally. I.e., people take a move action. In some cases, most importantly when you find yourself in a melee, you don't want to move normally, though - you just want to make a minor, well-timed, precise adjustment to your position relative to your foes. In some cases, you can do so without problem, taking advantage of your new position for a few precious seconds before the flow of combat might mix things up again. In other cases, this just doesn't combine well with what else you're doing (e.g., running down a hallway at full speed).


"Not an action" is clearly defined in the SRD:

SRD said:
Not an Action
Some activities are so minor that they are not even considered free actions. They literally don’t take any time at all to do and are considered an inherent part of doing something else.
Taking a 5-foot step is not "considered an inherent part of doing something else". Announcing your Power Attack modifier, or targeting a spell, or choosing which potion to draw from your bandoleer, are inherent parts of doing something else. 5-foot steps are neither an action nor "not an action", strange as that may sound.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Okay, consider the situation: You're in a melee situation, unarmed, and being guarded by an ally. You want to step out of that ally's way. Unless you "take an action", however, you can't move 5 feet without drawing an Attack of Opportunity. It's impossible to move carefully, tactically, unless you're distracted by preparing a weapon or a spell.

Does that still make sense to you? Recall that a Move action to leave a threatened square draws AoO, even if hat movement is only five feet.

As for 5 Ft Step being "not an action", as per the definition you quoted: Look a few lines lower in that same section of the SRD. 5 Ft. Step is explicitly listed as "Not an Action". And whatever your reasoning, specific trumps general.
 

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