Friday, April 1, 2016

Wizard Saga II: A Spell For Every Occasion

When we last left our wizard, we had just sunk about 85% of our wealth into hand-crafting a pile of magical toys, chiefly by exploiting a crafter's ability to play Katamari Damacy with magic item slots. There's a lot of words there, but here's a brief refresher of what the wizard can now do.

Things the wizard can ignore:
-Force spells
-Detection and divination spells
-The effects of age
-Spell components
-Sneak attacks
-Objects weighing less than 600 lbs
-Terminal Velocity
-Most climates

Things the wizard can travel across without problems:
-Long trips
-Difficult terrain
-The planes
-Small openings
-Thousands of miles

Things the wizard has boosted just because:
-Resting speed
-Regular speed
-Resistance to fatigue, negative energy, curses, gaze attacks and mind-affecting abilities
-Any skill, including the ability to disguise oneself as anyone and befriend the shit out of people
-Healing ability
-At-will telekinesis and levitation
-Free rope

Now let's start factoring in our higher level spells. Given any particular problem, there's probably a spell that solves it. I could go list off some examples, but that's not as exciting, so let's take a look at some of the big ticket items.

A conjuration wizard can have a portable pleasure palace as soon as level 13, providing ample opportunity for lounging your days away in a hot tub while servants feed you grapes. 7th level spell slots also open up one other possibility: the Create Demiplane line of spells, because you're not truly a God Wizard without your own personal slice of heaven.

The level 7 lesser version of the spell is at its most basic, just giving you a small pile of dirt or whatever floating in a void on the Astral or Ethereal Plane. It lasts for a day per caster level, or permanently if you're willing to plop down some cash. While the theory is nice enough, this really isn't the one you want to be using.

The level 8 regular version of the spell, learned at level 15 is more interesting, since not only does it give you over triple the volume, but also allows you to cast the spell again on your plane in order to start throwing on different traits.

The level 9 greater version of the spell, learned at level 17 is even better, again doubling the volume of your plane and allowing you to throw even more traits on it. Once you have this capability, the amount of stupid plane tricks you can pull off rises exponentially.

If you just want to build your own personal pleasure palace, start by casting Create Greater Demiplane to create a temporary plane, then cast Create Greater Demiplane to give it the Enhanced Magic (Conjuration) or Enhanced Magic (Creation) traits, granting you a +2 bonus to your caster level while on your demiplane. Then you cast Create Greater Demiplane again for real this time, to get more space for your money. Once you've got your bigger plane, you make it permanent, then start applying traits. Making it Minor Positive Energy Dominant means you and your friends will heal to full health within ten to twenty minutes of arrival on the plane, and aren't in any danger of being over-healed- plus, the positive dominance of the plane means that everything is more ~*totally magical*~ when you're on it. There's nothing that says you can't keep stacking traits, so you're free to make it so the plane enhances every type of magic you know of. When it comes to meddling with the Time trait, you can set it so time flows at twice the speed it does in the real world, meaning you could duck into your plane and rest up or craft in only half the time. Or you could set it so time flows at half the speed it does in the real world, and then use it to pass the time as you make a slow, one-way trip into the future. Or you could set it to Timeless, so various things like hunger, thirst or aging don't work while on the plane (though they are retroactive when you step off the plane), possibly giving yourself all the time needed to make magic items. Past that, you can make your plane Bountiful so it will always feed you, as well as making it Morphic so you can shape the ground with a thought to create whatever you need, and maybe set its gravity to half the normal rate so you can be lighter than ever, if you don't just set gravity to subjective to allow you to walk up walls and across ceilings. Then give it some alignment traits if you want people who don't think like you to be unwelcome, and set the shape, boundary and seasons as appropriate. Enjoy!

Of course, there's nothing to stop you from building your own demiplanes for offensive purposes as well.

Take your demiplane and make it fire dominant, earth dominant, water dominant and negative energy dominant- the spell may prohibit an area being both positive and negative dominant, but says nothing about mixing elemental types. Then double gravity and set it to timeless healing. End result is a plane that's got nothing but tightly packed tunnels of boiling water that eats away at any living creature inside it. If something wants to survive, it's got to be incredibly resistant to fire and negative energy as well as being able to survive without air- and if it wants to go anywhere it's going to need to be able to tunnel or otherwise plane-shift its way out. Double gravity is just there to make things twice as hard, and you can also just have it randomly alternate between blazing summer and freezing winter every so often just to be a dick. Timeless (healing) means that it can't heal naturally, and according to the universal monster rules, fast healing is an accelerated form of natural healing, and regeneration is a further subset of fast healing, so it's entirely possible that a Timeless (healing) zone shuts off regeneration. Slap a foe with plane shift and if your target fails a will save, they're going for a ride. Given that the characters with the cruddiest will saves also tend to be non-casters, then you can go wait a few minutes and plane shift in to loot some corpses (wait too long and the fire will probably get to them).

If you're more of a peaceful sort, then you can cut out all of the traits that try to kill anything in your demiplane, and just set up a nice bountiful land with pleasant seasons and the like to serve as a sort of extradimensional prison for your foes incapable of planar travel.

Of course, there are some enemies you can't kill no matter how badly you want to or how hard you try. Locking them away is the only solution, but you don't want to risk them getting out. Now, maybe you throw down some anti-planar travel magic like forbiddance and some anti-detection spells like private sanctum, but maybe you want to employ something even stronger. It's time for the Nuclear Option- Dead Magic. Dead magic zones are basically under a permanent antimagic field effect that also blocks any attempts to cross the boundary of the zone with things like teleportation or scrying spells. The only form of planar travel that can get you into a dead zone is a permanent planar portal. By casting Create Greater Demiplane, we can give the demiplane the Dead Magic trait, locking down all magic and preventing any transport in and out other than through a permanent portal. Unfortunately, the problem with a permanent portal is that even if you cover it with a doorway, there's still the chance that someone can get through (though, since a gate can be anywhere between 5 feet and 20 feet in diameter, if your subject is big enough you could set up a small enough portal that the prisoner can't get through, leaving your colossal target pawing at the man-sized doorway like a cat trying to get into a bedroom). Too much of a security risk, especially if you're keeping smaller prisoners. Now, the spell specifically mentions that if you set up a Dead Magic demiplane without a portal you will have no way out- truly, would it not be a noble sacrifice for your wizard to remain behind in order to imprison the greatest threat the world has ever known?

Well, fuck that, we have parties to attend.

Now, if you want to close off a demiplane permanently while making sure that you're not in it, there are a number of ways to do it. You could have someone open a gateway a minute before you finish casting, then slowly back through it while keeping some part of your body inside your plane, possibly sacrificing it when the gate is snapped shut by the antimagic field. But why injure yourself? You could use a proxy, such as using a metamagic rod of familiar spell so that your familiar makes the sacrifice instead of you, and cherish that memory always (then spend 200 gp to get a new familiar). But that's still involving some sort of sacrifice, which sounds like effort. You could use a proxy version of yourself to cast spells- while project image requires line of effect and thus necessitates having a gateway even if you could somehow make it last the six hours necessary for the casting (possibly through time shenanigans by setting the demiplane's time to "erratic" so you can have a round on one plane be equal to a day on another, though that's a whole can of worms by itself), shadow projection has no range or line of effect requirements, meaning you can send your shadow on a one-way trip and still come back alive-ish assuming you have someone on hand to stabilize you. But it's still confusing as to if spirits can travel through antimagic zones, so let's do something even simpler that requires no other spells save for the one we have.

You need two things: The first is your future prison demiplane, henceforth referred to as the Hotel California. The second is a second demiplane you're happy hanging out on for a little while (it doesn't even have to be a permanent one you paid for), henceforth referred to as the Happiness Hotel.

1) After you've done most of the work on the Hotel California, go back over to the Happiness Hotel
2) From the Happiness Hotel, cast Create Greater Demiplane and create a permanent gate between the Happiness Hotel and the Hotel California. It requires you to be very familiar with the target location, and you are already very familiar with any demiplane you create.
3) Wander through the gateway into Hotel California
4) Have your prisoners checked into Hotel California if you haven't already
5) Make sure you've placed the finishing touches on the Hotel California, then cast Create Greater Demiplane to add the Dead Magic trait to the Hotel California
6) Walk back into the Happiness Hotel through the permanent gate (or if you've already turned the Hotel California into a flaming death trap, run )
7) From the Happiness Hotel, cast Create Greater Demiplane again and remove the permanent gate between the Happiness Hotel and the Hotel California

End result is that you've locked something in an unreachable antimagic plane that will block pretty much anything short of a plot device (and arguably even most of those). I hope you aren't going to need it any time soon, because it's going to be incredibly difficult to get back. As an antimagic plane, it's one of those "immovable object" type situations, requiring an equally heavy-handed "unstoppable force" that counters its generic lock-out, or some sort of non-magical method of planar travel (a sign of a radically different game). About the only potential way back in without a plot device still involves a weird interpretation of the rules- dead magic zone rules specifically state that permanent portals function within them, and Create Greater Demiplane can create a permanent portal to a target plane, but while the dead magic zone doesn't close permanent portals that have already formed, does it prevent a permanent portal from forming once the zone is already established? Even if you can use Create Greater Demiplane to form a permanent portal into a dead magic plane, the spell requires you to be "very familiar" with the target plane, and hopefully the only people that qualify as "very familiar" with the Hotel California are its creator and its inhabitants. Of course, with a dead magic zone up and the portal down, no one else can check in, so it's not something you can easily modify or undo. But 22,500 gp is a small price to pay for what amounts to some ridiculous security. Only question remains is what happens to souls in a dead magic zone when they die- incorporeality is an extraordinary ability, so it functions in an antimagic zone, but can they go anywhere? If they can, then an enemy who dies in the Hotel California might be able to be raised somewhere else, but at least an enemy who can't die will have severe difficulty leaving.

But maybe you don't want to use a demiplane as a target or a prison... maybe you have bigger ideas. Maybe you want to hold the world ransom for... One Million Gold Pieces .

But they laughed at you, didn't they? You'll show those fool... you'll show them all!

Take Create Greater Demiplane, and put all the 10 foot cubes into a stack to create a demiplane that's 10 x 10 feet x 4000 feet or more, and can easily reach 10 x 10 x 4600 if you boost your caster level to 23 by letting your demiplane augment conjuration/creation spells and having an ioun stone that boost caster level, or even farther if you're willing to use some other options. Then use Create Greater Demiplane to double your demiplane's gravity and have it point towards one end of the stack. Then use spell again to grant your demiplane the water-dominant trait, filling it with water. Then you use the spell once more and open up a permanent gate from the bottom of the demiplane to a location on the material plane. Then what happens?

The boring answer would be "absolutely nothing, because magic." The more interesting answer would be that we've created a demiplane that consists of an immense column of water under heavy gravity, thus high pressure. 4600 feet of water under double gravity is something like three hundred times the pressure of the atmosphere at sea level, and according to Bernoulli's principle when you have a pressure difference you're going to have a flow from the high pressure to the low pressure zone, and when the pressure difference is huge, the flow is pretty fast- like hundreds of miles per hour because the output of several Niagara Falls is being pumped through a 20 foot hole. Anything in the immediate vicinity is going to get the shit blasted out of it. Even more troubling is the fact that because the demiplane is water-dominant, one of its defining traits is that it's just full of water, and no matter how much you take out, there will always be more. Given that this is a permanent portal, if no one does anything you could possibly flood even the highest mountains inside of a month or two. Anything that can't survive in water is probably going to drown, and anything that can survive in water is going to have to deal with changes in salinity that most simply weren't designed to take. About the quickest option is to enter the demiplane and successfully use a big ticket spell to dismantle it, but the demiplane creator might cast Create Greater Demiplane again to turn the water column into a dead magic zone in the next six hours (three hours if time passes twice as fast in the demiplane, which probably makes the water flow even weirder). After that, the only option you have is to block off the water flow, or wait for the pressures to equalize, like when the portal is buried under 10,000 feet of water. If the material realm gate is up on a mountain top or strapped to a floating fortress, this could take a while (and since it's at a high altitude, the pressure difference is greater, so the water flows even faster).

A plane full of water can be used offensively in other ways as well. Earlier we discussed how wizards use planar binding to hijack outsiders and hold them hostage until they agree to serve you, because wizards are dicks like that. Funny thing about outsiders: They don't need to eat or sleep, but they do need to breathe. So if you use planar binding to drop one into a room full of water and lock them in place with a magic circle + diagram & dimensional anchor, they're going to be stuck in place for several days, but only have a few minutes at most before they drown. Now, since the diagram is broken if anything disturbs it, maybe putting a line of powder at the bottom of a pool of water isn't the greatest idea. So maybe you carve a permanent magic circle into the rock, or maybe you just skip the water entirely and just set up shop in a vacuum. It's not as though it's going to bother you, after all. Set up a sign that states your terms (preferably as one-sided as possible) and if your outsider agrees, you get a new buddy. If they disagree, they die in a few minutes and that's that problem sorted. Decent way to assassinate a fairly high-ranking opponent.

Now, having a demiplane to relax in is nice and all, except for that annoying problem of getting there. If you aren't going to leave a gate lying around, you're going to have to use plane shift or similar magic to get there and back, and that can do a number on your spells per day. So if you want to pop in and out at-will, all you need is the right magic item. The cheapest one is the robe of stars, which lets you use plane shift to travel to and from the Astral Plane. When you create a demiplane, you can choose to locate it on the Astral Plane or Ethereal Plane, making it a valid target for your home away from home. The more expensive option is an Amulet of the Planes, which is just at-will plane shifting, though it requires a DC 15 Intelligence check to get where you want to go. Not a serious problem, because you're a wizard.

On to other fun spells. There is a high-end ring known as the ring of continuation which does one interesting thing: it sets the duration of any personal spell that lasts 10 minutes/level or longer to 24 hours. Among the possible spells that fits that description is shapechange, one of the two biggest polymorph spells. Polymorph spells deserve a post on their own for their completely ridiculous nature in 3e, and Paizo understandably tried to wind them back by fracturing the line into a bunch of smaller spells that only offered limited features for different creature types. Since they didn't release some of the creature type spells like monstrous humanoid and undead until Ultimate Magic, it creates a weird situation where shapechange can't change you into those types because it can't emulate those spells. Still, while shapechange isn't as ridiculously good as it was in the previous edition, a wizard with a ring of continuation is basically a one-wizard menagerie full of fun problem-solving tools all day, every day.

Of course, they didn't radically change the other major bunker buster of the polymorph line, polymorph any object, which allows you to bolt on all sorts of special abilities, letting you do almost anything you want, be it changing someone's hair color or turning pumpkins into carriages.

Of all the highest-level spells, perhaps the most exploitable in Pathfinder is the one that's half plot device- Wish. Capable of twisting reality to your will, it's always been a challenge to limit the abuse of this spell. 3e gave it a fairly expensive experience point cost, which was a problem because if you were a high level wizard who wanted to regain that experience, you had to get into a fight with high-level opponents, who were a combination of both rare and dangerous to your continued existence. In Pathfinder, they've abolished experience costs in favor of material costs- in this case, a diamond worth 25,000 gp.

Material costs in general are one of the weirder aspects of D&D and Pathfinder, because it's never entirely clear just how you're supposed to determine value. The intent seems to be that spell requires a gem of certain size/purity and cost is just a short-hand for that aspect, but since the game just uses cost, it creates some strange outcomes- what happens if you got the gems on sale? Do they still count? If it's instead linked to a sort of platonic ideal of gem costs, does that mean that the commodities market is heavily watched by spellcasters everywhere, waiting for the right time to engage in expensive rituals in order to make the most out of their material components? Is there some sort of wizard version of DeBeers who engage in price fixing and hold back the gem supply in order to drive up the value of their stocks?

Expensive material costs tend to be the only thing curbing high-level spells, but it's not as much of a bind as experience costs were. Character wealth is usually fixed and parceled out according to character level in order to prevent characters from acquiring ridiculous magic items too soon, and thus for most characters spending money on one-use items like expensive spells, potions, scrolls, staves, wands and other consumable items is just burning small holes in your character's capabilities as you slowly consume wealth that could have been put towards a long-term item you could use and reuse. But for a wizard, there's just one question: Can I make more money using this spell than I would have to spend on it? If so, fire away.

Wish has several possible options:
-Duplicating wizard spells: Generally, as a wizard you probably shouldn't need this. Though it does mean that the spell will have a higher save DC.
-Duplicating non-wizard spells: More useful, but as a level 15+ wizard you can use the True Name of a planetar to have a 16th level cleric on-call. In fact, since a planetar has 17 hit dice and you can bind something with up to 18 hit dice, you could get a planetar with 1 level of cleric, who counts as a 17th level cleric with 9th level spells.
-Undoing harmful spells: Usually, there are cheaper spells to deal with this, possibly cast by aforementioned planetar cleric
-Revive the dead: Well, since it duplicates resurrection, it's usually cheaper to have the planetar cast resurrection, but there are some things that kill targets so thoroughly that you're going to need a wish to bring it back
-Undo misfortune: Some days, things are bad enough that this is an option
-Provide inherent bonuses: A good way to boost your intelligence, but it's often cheaper to bind genies and make them do it instead
-Transport creatures: This one is interesting

Raising people from the dead is an interesting prospect, because it's a trade-off between affordability and effectiveness. Resurrection and True Resurrection are more expensive than Raise Dead, but also don't offer as many negative levels which you have pay to remove and can operate on targets that have been dead for longer, and dead of more impressive things, or whose bodies are in various states of powder. Of course, even True Resurrection can't return those who have died of old age, teaching us an important lesson that no matter how much power you amass, even the mightiest mage must eventually bow before the power of-

-oh wait, never mind.

About the only way to stop an immortal wizard is to kill them and run out the clock on resurrection over the next few centuries. Of course, running out the clock can be difficult if the wizard's friends don't care about clocks to begin with. Or if the wizard has a spare body or ten.

Dealing lasting harm to a wizard with wish is hard enough, because a wizard can always just whistle up a full-heal artifact. While artifacts are normally not fair game for power considerations, this one specifically allows transportation via wish, which means high level casters can probably pass it around like a hockey puck.

Thing about transporting creatures via wish is that while you have cheaper and more effective methods of transporting you and your allies, you don't have cheaper and more effective ways of transporting your enemies. Wish can take up to one target per caster level from any location in any plane and deposit them anywhere else on any plane. So while you could use teleport to pop into a villain's sanctum, you could use wish to drop the villain into your sanctum instead. Or anywhere else you please.

Admittedly, you need to breach the target's Spell Resistance and the target has to fail a Will save, but that's not necessarily as hard as it sounds.

The Tarrasque is a legendary monster with 36 spell resistance and a will save bonus of +12.

To beat its SR, we need to roll 1d20 + our caster level check.
+20 (level 20 wizard)
+1 ioun stone
+2 Casting from our enhanced magic (universal/wishes) greater demiplane
+4 anime kimono
+4 two feats on Greater Spell Penetration
+2 from our teamwork feat, which we can use any time we're adjacent to our valet familiar
+2 for being an elf (at least in spirit)

This is a total of +35, meaning we can succeed even on a natural 1. The Tarrasque has the highest SR in the game, and this is overkill. Just with our gear and basic Spell Penetration we can succeed almost 2/3rds of the time against the Tarrasque.

Meanwhile, the Tarrasque is rolling its will save against our spell DC of 10 + 9 (spell level) + our Int modifier, so an Intelligence score of 36 (achievable for a level 20 wizard, though it will require some investment in things like aging or inherent bonuses) will be enough to set the DC to 32, meaning the Tarrasque can only succeed on a natural 20.

Should that not be enough, with the use of a metamagic rod to apply persistent spell the Tarrasque has to roll a natural 20 twice in order to shake off the wish.

(we can also boost both save DC and caster level with a little help from our planetar's cleric spells)

So, barring some stupid luck on the part of the big T, you can send this engine of destruction anywhere you feel like. Maybe you want to see how your enemies handle the Tarrasque, or maybe you just want to teleport it into the heart of the sun. Now, this won't actually kill the Tarrasque since it's immune to fire damage, but the Tarrasque can't breathe in space. This isn't fatal either, because as a spawn of Rovagug, it hibernates whenever it would otherwise be unable to breathe and just rides it out. Up side to this is that while hibernating, it's immune to divinations and any spells that would allow spell resistance (such as teleportation effects and wish). This means that if you teleport the Tarrasque into space, people are going to have to find it and bring it back the old-fashion way unless they can figure out some way to make it breathe and pop out of hibernation. If it's locked in an air-less anti-magic zone like the Hotel California demiplane, people are going to have to find some non-magical ways to get it breathing and moving again (which is even harder if the Hotel California is also perpetually on fire and full of rocks and water).

So if the world is giving you a reward of more than 25,000 gp for defeating the Tarrasque, it's only a wish away. And since you can move one target per caster level, you can scatter the Tarrasque and the rest of its lesser siblings.

Of course, while high-level characters aren't going to have the same degree of Spell Resistance as the Tarrasque, they're probably going to have better will saves (unless they're fighters). But since you can abduct 20+ characters at a time, why not go harass some mid-level characters? Even NPCs are carrying 10,000 gp worth of stuff, and you can get half their gear value from resale, more than enough to cover the cost of the wish several times over.

But why settle for just gear when you can make them work for you? Have them put on a show for the amusement of tens of thousands of paying fans. If you're worried about the view, scrying displays its subject on the spell focus, a mirror worth 1000 gp- get a big enough mirror and you now have a magical jumbotron.

If you're going to all this effort to set up a show, then it's going to be annoying if your subjects go and teleport out of your stadium. Locking down the arena can get expensive, so why not make sure that you're located out of the usual operating range?

Your basic teleport spell travels 100 miles per caster level, so you'd have to be a thousand miles away from anything of interest, and that won't stop them from making multiple trips. They might even have the ability to cast greater teleport and travel anywhere in the world.

But you know what? We're a 20th level caster, we can go even farther.

(Of course, if you don't mind being imprecise about distance, a mid-level cleric could travel home with the use of two copies of plane shift, teleporting from Fantasy Mars to another plane, and then from the other plane to Fantasy Earth. But not everyone at that level can cast plane shift, and those that can't also tend to be noncasters with terrible willpower and entertaining enough fighting skills.)

So remember, you are only one DC 35 will save away from being transported to an alien world and forced to fight for the amusement of an eternal world-ending god wizard on a heavenly throne.

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