High-level Play, Part 1
by, 07-01-2013 at 06:19 AM (1955 Views)
I've players who're unfamiliar with the latter half (levels 10+) of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. That's okay. But a raft of rulings are needed when a dude casts the scrying spell and then casts the teleport spell to murder folks in their sleep. This is long 'cause I try to cover all the bases.
At about level 9 the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 game changes significantly in that it assumes Team Antagonist has questions and that Team Protagonist has answers. Some of Team Antagonistís questions are hard and weird, though, and the answers not readily apparent. Here are some of Team Antagonistís questions.
Can You Escape?
Team Antagonist gets some very scary puzzle monsters. These arenít just Big Sacks of Hit Points; theyíre Big Sacks of Bizarre Powers and Hit Points that, until you figure out how to fight them, you lose. If you fight something to the death itís not guaranteed itíll be to the death of the monster, so you need a way to easily, quickly, and safely flee. This doesnít make you a coward; this makes you smart. Every [homebrew] PC can cast the spells freedom of movement at level 9 and contingency at level 12, so even if you set up your contingency spell to actually be the freedom of movement spell (which is totally cool if youíve no better options), you should always have a contingency spell running that will rescue you when things go south.
If you canít do it yourself, you should acquire a method of short-range teleportation. I suggest at least one anklet of translocation (Magic Items Compendium 71) (1,400 gp; 0 lbs.).
Can You Stop Spies?
Team Antagonist likes using divination spells to determine Team Protagonistís location and plans.
Team Protagonist likes using divination spells to determine Team Antagonistís location and plans.
Therefore you need to know how divination spells work no matter whose side youíre on.
The scrying subschool includes the spells arcane eye [div] (Playerís Handbook 200), clairaudience/clairvoyance [div] (Playerís Handbook 209-10) (even when used through a scrying beacon (Magic Item Compendium 104) (750 gp; 0 lbs.)), eye of power [div] (Spell Compendium 87), eye of stone [div] (Races of Stone 162), flowsight [div] (Stormwrack 117), greater scrying [div] (Playerís Handbook 275), listening coin [div] (Spell Compendium 133), portal view [div] (Underdark 60), scry location [div] (Complete Scoundrel 102), scrying [div] (Playerís Handbook 274-5), and spymasterís coin [div] (Complete Scoundrel 104). Spells like gem tracer [div] (Dragons of FaerŻn 116), sacred guardian [div] (Book of Exalted Deeds 106), and soul link [necro] (Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss 96) activate a scrying effect; while these spells arenít in the scrying subschool the scrying effect they create is.
The scrying subschool is a big deal because its spells can determine teleport destinations. Most other divination spells canít, but exceptions exist, which Iíll address later.
To stop scrying subschool spells youíll want toÖ
Be Everywhere and Nowhere
The scrying and greater scrying spells do not answer questions. This is implied by the spells but not stated, so Iím stating it. When the spell says ďsome creatureĒ it means a specific creature with a name or thatís been encountered. If a caster walks into a room and finds the king dead and then casts scrying targeting ďthe kingís murderer,Ē the DM will do the mental gymnastics that has the caster using the scrying spell on the dwarf who mined the ore from which the blacksmith forged the dagger that the shopkeeper bought wholesale and sold to the assassins guild armorer who gave it to the rogue who, with that dagger, murdered the king, and I can make the caster think some poor, starving dwarf miner six cities away killed the king. Thatís me being a jerk because the casterís loopholing a spell. However, if the caster sees the murderer flee or the murderer leaves behind his ear, ďthe kingís murdererĒ becomes instead ďthat dude I saw flee from the kingís bedchamberĒ or ďthe dude whoís the rest of this earĒ and thatís a valid, the-DMís-not-going-to-screw-with-it target of the scrying and greater scrying spells.
This makes names important and explains why PCs tell people who ask that theyíre The Fist, The Dragon, The Martyr, The Returner, The Hood, The Veteran, The Thief, or whatever. Itís the same reason Batman licenses his suit to Halloween costume shops; a scrying and greater scrying spell targeting random folks who call themselves or who think they are Batman gets you 7 minutes (or 13 hours) of a fat, grunting weirdo in a Batman costume leering over pictures of Catwoman. However, a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting ďthe Batman I saw here last nightĒ or ďthe Batman who owns this batarangĒ gets that Batman. And a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting Bruce Wayne absolutely gets Bruce Wayne.
Corner-case, mostly class feature-y things check this, too. If a target has a different identity to such a degree that the target believes heís someone else with a different name, a scrying or greater scrying spell targeting the original name fails outright. In my universes class features granting other identities do this automatically (e.g. Complete Adventurerís spymaster, Epic Level Handbookís epic infiltrator). The spell that does this is programmed amnesia [ench] (Spell Compendium 162-3), which a wizard will gladly cast for 2,030 gp, butóO, crap!óread that spell and make damn sure heís friendly! Iíve not decided if the spell feeblemind [ench] (Playerís Handbook 229-30) or any other spell reducing Int below 3 renders the target nameless (I donít know if a lizard knows its name), butÖ umÖ probably? Go ahead and experiment with that.
By the way, I use the metagame mystical definition of name here, as in the name unique to a creature that encapsulates his identity. This is found in the Name section of your character sheet. No, you canít leave this section blank, fill this section illegibly, make your name unpronounceable by impatient and short-lived humans, or have your name be an emotional, sensory, or theoretical concept (e.g. the trust in the heart of the cards, the scent of fresh dew on a beholderís eyelash, πís last 10 digits, the strange shiver after pissing).
Live Somewhere Appropriate
Thin sheets of lead block all scrying subschool spells, most detect-type divinations, and the spells locate object [div] (Playerís Handbook 249) and locate creature [div] (Playerís Handbook 249). PCs probably wonít have noticed, but a lot of structures incorporate this safeguard, and sometimes thatís bullshit, but most important (i.e. above CR 6) Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 folks understand the value of a thin sheet of lead, so thoseíre just there, and a house even 10 years old means thin sheets of lead are in the exterior walls, ceilings, and floors by default. Most actual, for reals, a-wizard-did-it (or a-bard-did-it as the lyre of building (Dungeon Masterís Guide 261) is the bomb) dungeons have the same defenses, so finding a nice dungeon, clearing it of monsters, and living there is a thing (which, by the way, is exactly what The Gnome was supposed to do). That happens andóbam!ó the entire scrying subschool just got punched in the junk.
However, adventures available to characters perpetually camped in conquered dungeons are limited. So, yeah, itís not enough to just turtle. The campaign ends. Some NPCs turtle because high-level play is hard, and other NPCs opt for retirementóDungeons and Dragons 3.5 barbarians, fighters, monks, rangers, paladins, and many rogues just canít play the game beyond level 6. Thatís why high-level encounters often feature bards, clerics, druids, sorcerers, wizards, and other spellcasters: they have the resources to deal with Team Antagonistís shenanigans or be Team Antagonist.
Anyway, if thereís a trip that needs taking, a town that needs visiting, alley business that needs conducting, or a natural anything that needs exploring, portable defenses against the scrying subschool are a necessity.
Avoid Being the Target
The spell nondetection [abjur] (Playerís Handbook 257) is a lousy counter to divination spells because of its fragility. Those casting divinations are usually higher level than those who donít want the divinations cast on them, so casters just force their way through nondetection spells with bigger, fatter caster level checks. However, if itís the only thing available or if itís available at ridiculous, it works fine. For an individual a wand of extended nondetection (12th) (16,000 gp; 0lbs.) [nondetection is a 2nd-level spell for the Telflammar Shadowlord, but you should check my numbers for all of these things anyway] is probably a career-spanning investment, and for a group a staff of chained extended reach nondetection (15th) (47,800; 4 lbs.) does the job on 15 people per charge.
Constant nondetection can be gotten from an amulet of proof against detection and location (Dungeon Masterís Guide 247) (8th) (35,000 gp; 0 lbs.) or a hat of anonymity (Magic Item Compendium 109) (7th) (12,500; 1 lb.), but these have such low caster levels as to be nearly meaningless.
The spell mind blank [abjur] (Playerís Handbook 253) is what everyone wants, though. In addition to flat-out stopping divinations (including the ridiculous discern location spell), it blocks everything mind-affecting. The mind blank spell just straight-up gives magical spycraft the finger. For an individual a staff of extended mind blank (17th) (57,375 gp; 4 lbs.) works for several months. If only the anti-scrying portion of mind blank is needed the ioun stone (black and white ellipsoid) (Dragon #319 64) (60,000 gp; 0 lbs.) works forever. Every other way to get even close to mind blank is priced at over 100,000 gp, so pre-epic no one gets those; while itís possible thereíre so many other things on which to spend that kind of gp.
If planning a very short adventuring career, a wizard can be paid 1,530 gp every other day to cast an extended mind blank spell on somebody.
Kill Spies for Even Trying to Spy
A dead caster canít finish using the scrying and greater scrying spells.
The spelltouched feat Live My Nightmare (Unearthed Arcana 94) is awesome for the paranoid. The feat sends an effect like the spell phantasmal killer [illus] (Playerís Handbook 260) at anyone who targets the featís possessor with a divination spell or effect. Things just got real, even with the effectís unoptimized, Charisma-based save DC.
A charge from a staff of extended psychic poison [abjur] (Book of Vile Darkness 101) (13th) (24,675 gp; 0 lbs.) lasts more than a day, and if an enemy caster within 50 ft. targets the creature affected by the psychic poison spell with a divination or mind-affecting spell, the enemy caster makes a Willpower saving throw; failure means beefy ability damage. (Note: The psychic poison spell doesnít list the saving throw, and no one seems to have noticed. Ever.)
Next: More on scrying and other divinations.