Friday, April 1, 2016

Dungeons & Diablery Part 1: Your Imp and You

Edit: This whole thing was written in response to a different poster's post on the various... intricacies of the demoniac prestige class and its Demonic Obedience feat prerequisite.  I may do a write-up on obedience feats later

Out of all the oddities in Pathfinder prestige classes, few are the intersection of as many as the diabolist.  So, what does it get you?

Well, for starters, your ass now belongs to Asmodeus. If you kick it, go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect 200 gp. Obviously, you're to have trouble getting back into the game, as people are going to have trouble resurrecting you. Except for the fact where they won't. See, the difficulty for bringing you back requires the person casting the spell to make a caster level check against a DC equal to 10 + your levels in the diabolist PrC. So a fresh-faced damned with one level in the class requires a DC 11 check to bring back. The lowest level spells that bring you back from the dead require a caster level of 9, so a roll of 1d20 + 9 against a DC 11 can only fail on a natural 1. If you're the most horrific diabolist to ever walk the face of the earth, the DC is 10 + 10 levels = 20. So a person who just learned to raise the dead can still haul your ass from the pit of hell 50% of the time.

Fortunately, at level 5 this penalty is waived as long as your death wasn't ordered by Asmodeus or a similar high-level lord of hell. So thanks for that huge favor. Of course, even if your death was ordered by hell, it's still ridiculously easy for one of your allies to bring you back. Fuck the police, coming straight from the underworld.

There's one other thing a starting diabolist gets- an imp. Not just any imp, mind you, but an imp that uses the rules for animal companions. On the surface, this sort of makes sense. You'd picture a character making pacts with the hells to have a fawning servant who goes "yes master, how wonderful!" and the animal companion rules are rules for a companion that levels with you.

Except... well, animal companion rules were designed around a specific sort of character, the kind whose animal companion fights alongside them and grows to face the challenges ahead. End result is that when you subject an imp to the animal companion rules, things get a little strange. For starters, the act of being your companion means the imp gets seriously ripped. Thanks to the bonuses from the animal companion, an imp is stronger and more agile than a normal imp, and has a thicker hide. The more you level, the stronger your imp gets. At 20th level, your imp gets +6 to strength and dexterity, and +12 to its natural armor, and you have 4 floating points to put into any of its ability scores just like you would when you level up. So if you poured them into strength, your imp would have 20 Strength and 23 Dexterity and an AC of 32, making it pretty much the Bruce Lee of impdom. It would also have 16d10 hit dice, compared to a druid animal companion's 16d8, though it wouldn't have much of a Constitution modifier. It's also just a tiny (albeit incredibly muscular) imp.

Of course, as an imp, it differs from animal companions in one unique way- spell-like abilities. In particular, it has the ability to take on alternate forms using beast shape II. When it uses beast shape II to change into a medium animal, not only does it gain a +2 bonus to strength (pushing it to 22) and a +2 bonus to natural armor, but it also gains the animal's senses, movement, and some of its special attacks. While normal imps are limited to choosing between a boar, a bat, a raven or a big spider, a diabolist's imp can learn any medium animal as an alternate form for a bonus trick. So you could turn into a leopard and pick up pounce so muscle imp can make five attacks on a charge. Or if that's not enough for you, you can have your imp pick up the ability to shapeshift into a fucking dinosaur and do the same thing. Hell, pick up both forms, you've got tricks to spare (admittedly, leopard is actually better since the listed version doesn't take any off-hand penalty to any of its attacks). It can also pick up telepathy as one of its bonus tricks, letting it communicate with anything who has a language.

One other thing that's interesting about animal companions is that not only do they gain hit dice, they also gain feats for those hit dice. And not only do you get to pick the feats, but since an imp is as intelligent as a person (actually, it's smarter), it can choose from the same feat pool as player characters so long as it meets the prerequisites.

Ultimate Magic introduced the Eldritch Heritage chain of feats, which allows you to spend a feat to pick up low-level sorcerer bloodline ability. Spend more feats, and you can pick up abilities, all the way to their 15th level ability, provided you have the prerequisites including the charisma score for it. Some bloodlines are of dubious value for a sorcerer, but utterly hilarious on things that aren't sorcerers. An imp has 14 charisma to start with, and can boost its charisma by 1 point every 4 hit dice.

The orc bloodline has an interesting feature for its ninth level ability, namely the fact that it gets a scaling inherent bonus to strength. Characters with 15 Charisma can take Improved Eldritch Heritage to acquire that ability at level 11. For our imp, one ability point before you hit 11 hit dice will make our muscle imp even more muscular, gaining a +2 inherent bonus to strength that increases to +4 at 15 hit dice. If you're feeling particularly cheeky, a similar benefit can be acquired with the Abyssal bloodline, meaning you have a devil whose ancestors were demons.

(Incidentally, Eldritch Heritage is a pretty great feat chain for characters with the charisma to afford it. Paladins/antipaladins and battle oracles have little trouble justifying the Charisma needed for the Orc bloodline's bonuses (though the skill focus prerequisite is a bit of a waste), and other classes might find other bloodlines they like, such as picking up Rakshasa bloodline on a ninja for the bonuses to bluff, nondetection, shapechanging and disguises from Skill Focus. Oni bloodline provides a similar shapeshifting bonus for fewer feats, but requires two extra levels to pay off).

But why settle? As a humanoid-shaped character with hands and feet, and imp has all the magic item spell slots that a regular character has, so there's nothing stopping you from picking up a magic item designed to boost your imp's ability scores even further. A belt of giant's strength +6 combined with orc or abyssal heritage means that a 20th level companion imp has 28 strength, or 30 when it shapeshifts into an animal using alternate form. Throw on an amulet of mighty fists +5 and your imp leopard is pouncing for five attacks at +29 to hit, 1dX+15 to damage. Throw on power attack and that's another +8 damage to each one. And this is before bonuses to hit and damage from spells, which means your imp can do this all damn day (or better with other magic items, such as welding on a belt of thunderous charging to scale up the damage). It's competitive with a monk of your level (not an astonishing feat, I admit, but it's your minion, not your main character). And this is before you start throwing on bonuses from spells or things like inspire courage.

Now, the funny thing about the diabolist's imp, is that the diabolist's effective druid level is equal to its levels in the PrC, plus its caster highest level. The diabolist PrC boosts caster level, which means that levels in the PrC effectively count twice. The lowest possible level for entry into the PrC is 5, meaning that a level 13 character (level 5 caster/level 8 diabolist) counts as a level 21 druid for the imp's abilities, though the chart for animal companions caps out at level 20.

But... what if it didn't?

If there's one thing 3e and its offspring love, it's predictable trajectories. Animal companions are no different. An animal companion has hit dice equal to 2/3rds your druid level (rounded down) + 1, and a BAB equal to 3/4ths of the hit dice. Its Fortitude and Reflex saves are equal to 1/2 the hit dice + 2, and its Will save is equal to 1/3 the hit dice rounded down. It also gains one ability point to boost its scores per 4 hit dice of the animal companion. The natural armor bonus scales up by 2 points every 3 levels of the druid, and the bonus to Strength and Dexterity increases by 1 point every 3 levels of druid. The companion has one bonus trick, and gains one additional trick every 3 levels of druid.

A 5 caster/8 diabolist counts as a 21st level druid, and a 10 caster/10 diabolist counts as a 30th level druid.

So what does a 30th level druid companion look like?

Well, our theoretical imp has 21 hit dice, +15 bab, +12 Fort and Ref, +7 Will, five ability points, +10 to Strength and Dexterity, +20 to natural armor, and 11 bonus tricks. It also has 12 feats.

Well, we can put two points into strength, and then a point into Dexterity and Intelligence to round them off for sweet bonuses, and a point into Charisma so the imp qualifies for Improved Eldritch Heritage.

Our imp's strength goes from 10 base, +10 from companion, +2 from levels, +6 inherent (Eldritch Heritage), and +6 from equipment = 34 total
Dexterity is 17 base + 10 companion + 1 level = 28, or 34 as well with equipment bonuses.

AC is 10 base + 12 Dex + 21 natural armor + 2 size = 45, and that's before things like mage armor (+4) or deflection bonuses or bonuses to natural armor from barkskin or amulets of natural armor (+5).

The Imp has 21d10 hit dice, or 120 hp on average, which is kind of low, but you can throw a +6 constitution booster by really spending some money so your imp can have an extra 63 HP. An imp also has DR and fast healing naturally, but the diabolist version doesn't seem to get it. Oh well!

So if the imp shapeshifts into a medium leopard, and you cast Mage armor on it (a low level spell) along with an amulet of mighty fists +5, you've got a pounce for five attacks at +33 (well +35 when charging) hits for maybe 100+ damage depending on how many alternate forms of damage you can stack on.

But that's not enough, so it's time to get dangerously cheesy. See, one other feature of the animal companion is the ability to share spells. While I've already mentioned one application (druids riding on their animal companions or vice versa so both can share the same spell), it also means that you can target your animal companion with any spell marked "personal". Nondruids can target their companions with personal spells so long as the spell comes from the class that gave you animal companion levels. Diabolist can apply to any class capable of calling evil outsiders, including wizards. Wizards have a host of personal spells designed to turn them from terrible combatants into average combatants. While largely a waste of time on a wizard, our imp companion is an above-average combatant to begin with.

So let's bust out the big guns. Shapechange is among the biggest there is, allowing the caster to turn into a host of interesting things. But we can mix it up with other spells such as fiery body to turn our imp into huge dragon made of fire. And then you teach it how to fight.

So while it doesn't have pounce, it does have several other things, namely 44 strength (making it stronger than most real dragons), 24 Constitution (giving it 147 extra hit points, or about 270 without Toughness), +43 or so to hit, 55 AC, and six attacks per round that hit for between 2d8+48, 2d6+34 and 1d8+19 with power attack (dropping your attack bonus down to +37 or so, admittedly). And hell, there are still more spells you can cast on it to boost these numbers even further (haste, magic circle, heroism, etc).

End result is that with your support you can enable your lowly imp to go Super Saiyan and mop the floor with a pit fiend, a general of hell.

All this while still being a level 20 wizard. And even if you can't be a level 30 druid, you can always be a level 20 one since the PrC stacks with your caster level in any other class, meaning a 1 level dip is all you need.

Oh, and weirdly enough, the use of imps as companions isn't unprecedented. There are already rules for your character having an imp companion- namely through familiars. A character with the Improved Familiar feat can have an imp starting at level 7, and an Infernal Binder conjuration wizard gets one for free. Thus a level 7+ wizard who takes the diabolist PrC can have two imps at the same time- one animal companion, one familiar.

Next Time: The rest of the diabolist prestige class.  

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