What are the major differences between these four builds with 17 levels of bard? [closed]

I will be making a level 20 character for a one shot that will have a lot of roleplay and combat. I want to be a bard plus something else. Either a Lore or Whisper bard and then either an Aberrant Mind sorcerer or a Great Old One warlock. I want to have at least 17 levels of bard so at a key moment I can use true polymorph and turn into an Aboleth.

What are the pros and cons of and the major differences between each combination of 17 levels of bard (Lore or Whisper) and 3 levels of either Aberrant Mind sorcerer or a Great Old One warlock?

How can this bard best spend her remaining levels?

I’ve been working for months on a character that in my head is a combination of bard and thief. Here’s the basic concept:

Performer. Enchantress. Silver-tongued thief. She’s easy to get along with and a fine negotiator and investigator, but she’s rash, impulsive, terrible with money, and loves jewelry. She’s prone to tantrums and slightly vain. She’s outgoing, unafraid of showing some skin, pretty much refusing to wear anything that doesn’t expose her midriff. Her patron is Sune.

Out of combat, she’s the party face, gathering information and thieving. In combat she casts enchantment spells, illusion spells, and information gathering spells that help the party fight better. If she must herself fight, she’ll use her whip, but she’d would rather run away or negotiate.

I intend to have her take at levels 11 through 20 the prestige class heartwarder (Faiths and Pantheons 196-7). What I need help with are the other levels. I want 7 levels of bard to meet the prestige class’s requirements, but what remaining 3 levels help with the thief part of the concept while still having the character as Charisma-dependent as possible?

Based on the character’s concept, what is are the best class choices for this character before at level 11 she enters heartwarder?

Are Arcane Arcane Tricksters still limited to Enchantment/Illusion spell schools when multiclassing with a Wizard At higher levels?

Please help me with Arcane Trickster Wizard multiclass spell options?

I have a Rogue-Arcane Trickster Lvl 10, Wizard-Bladesinger Lvl 6. I understand they use the other spell slot chart in the multiclassing section of the PHB. Now I know Arcane Trickster can only select Enchantment and Illusion spells. I also know you can add all spell schools in a Wizard’s Spell book.

Are Arcane Arcane Tricksters still limited to Enchantment/Illusion spell schools when multiclassing with a Wizard as they gain more levels in Arcane Trickster?

Are oozes overpowered for their levels due to the Engulf ability?


Background

Early in my campaign, there was a combat encounter where three level 2 PCs fought a single gelatinous cube. The cube was the standard level 3, and there were no special outside circumstances such as difficult terrain. As per the XP reward and XP budget rules, the cube was worth 60 XP, a Moderate threat encounter for a party of three. The cube proceeded to kill a character and another character’s animal companion.

This week, much later into the campaign, three vaultbreaker oozes (level 6) engaged with a party of four PCs (three 7th level, one 6th level). The PCs were at full health, had no afflictions, and had nearly all of their spells available as this was the beginning of the dungeon. Again, no difficult terrain or extraneous circumstances. Based on the XP reward and budget rules, the encounter would have been worth about 90 XP, a high-moderate to low-severe threat encounter. The oozes caused a total party kill.

The Apparent Cause: Engulf

It seems to me that both of these deadly results were the direct result of the Engulf ability. All deaths occurring from the two aforementioned encounters were the result of accumulated damage from acid and suffocation resulting from the oozes’ Engulf usage.

Some things to note about Engulf:

  • The ability is unlimited in use. There is no cooldown. An ooze can use it every round (and it seems likely that oozes would, based on my interpretation of oozes’ main goal of mindless consumption).
  • The ability only costs two actions and is not itself a Strike, which means a Strike can be used before or after Engulf at no multiple attack penalty.
  • The ability doesn’t require the ooze to move in a straight line — it merely states that the monster Strides up to double its Speed, meaning that it can turn and twist during its movement, allowing it to effectively "roomba" up a large area by sweeping itself around.
  • I don’t see a limit to how many creatures can be Engulfed by a single ooze, but to me it seems reasonable that a large creature like a gelatinous cube or vaultbreaker ooze would be able to engulf up to four medium-sized creatures, since they’d all fit in its area.
  • Engulfed creatures are pulled into the ooze’s body and are grabbed, which I interpret as meaning that they remain in the ooze’s body as it moves, including the continuation of the Engulf’s double Stride.
  • Though the Engulfed creature can attempt to escape, it is Slowed 1 by the Engulf, leaving it only two actions to do something that may be quite difficult for physically weaker characters.
  • Engulfed creatures are subject to suffocation rules.
  • I’m not sure on the rules for this, but it’s possible that non-Engulfed casters are unable to target Engulfed characters with healing abilities, even if the ooze is translucent or transparent. I’ve asked a separate question about this here.

Some things to note about oozes:

  • They often have large HP pools, meaning it’s tough to kill one quickly if it’s Engulfed your ally.
  • They are immune to critical hits, so double damage isn’t applied even though crits happen often with oozes’ typically low AC.
  • They are mindless feeders, so it’s hard for a GM to come up with a reason that they wouldn’t finish a PC or party off — assuming the PC or party hasn’t been engulfed before or after the PC or party was defeated, which probably would be the case.

How It Happens

  1. The PC is Engulfed.
  2. The PC takes acid damage from the Engulf at the end of their turn, every turn.
  3. The PC can’t breathe and is subject to suffocation.
  4. The PC eventually hits Dying 1. At this point, the PC can no longer hold their breath since they are unconscious, and therefore become subject to suffocation damage if they weren’t out of breath already.
  5. The PC’s next turn ends, at which point the PC hits Dying 2 as a result of the acid damage, and possibly Dying 3 in the same turn if the PC fails their fortitude save against suffocation.
  6. The PC saves against death, possibly dying.
  7. If the PC survives, they can gain another 2 points of Dying easily next turn due to the acid and possible suffocation damage.
  8. And so on.

As you can see, the combined effects of Engulf can quickly kill. Suffocation is pretty deadly as is, but Engulf takes it to a whole other level.

Are oozes improperly balanced, or am I doing something(s) wrong?

It seems to me that oozes’ threat is far too high for their given levels. Am I running oozes wrong, or is this a balance issue with the system?

ADDENDUM: As a wise commenter pointed out, the third option is that my players are simply suffering the results of not treating oozes as the special case/danger they are, and should have taken special precautions against them (especially since my players have 15+ years of gaming experience and knew the dangers of oozes in both Pathfinder 2e and other systems). This is a definite possibility, and I’m happy to receive answers related to this.

Why don’t adventurers suffocate in lower levels of dungeons?

Why don’t adventurers (and monsters) suffocate in lower levels of dungeons?

I asked a question about this on Physics to check my reasoning. Why does Nitrogen not sink in air if other dense gases do? An answer states that CO2, which is a product of exhalation, will sink to lower levels in enclosed spaces. There is also a hazard in mines generally from gases seeping out of the rocks.

Question

How do PCs and NPCs survive in such conditions? If there is some form of ventilation to the outside world, can explorers escape through the ducts?

Does Psionic Sorcery value spell levels differently than Flexible Casting?

In attempting to answer this question I ran into a different question about how the Abberant Mind Sorcerer’s Psionic Sorcery works.

Psionic Sorcery states:

When you cast any spell of 1st level or higher from your Psionic Spells feature, you can cast it by expending a spell slot as normal or by spending a number of sorcery points equal to the spell’s level.

Normally, a sorcerer must spend increasingly large quantities of sorcery points to make spell slots as indicated on the table under Font of Magic and can create spell slots no higher than level 5.

However, Psionic Sorcery is worded as "a number of points equal to the spell’s level." This would seem to suggest that the conversion rate is always 1:1. That is, to cast a level 5 spell, an Abberant Mind Sorcerer would only need to expend 5 sorcery points, not 7.

Further, the Psionic Sorcery seems to allow any level spell to be cast in this way. The ability does not seem to be limited to a maximum of level 5 spell slots since it isn’t explicitly predicated on the table from Flexible Casting.

Is that correct?

How does the dispel check work for single-target spells becoming multi-target using higher levels? [duplicate]

The 2nd level spell Hold Person can affect multiple targets when upcast with a higher level slot.

Suppose a wizard uses a 6th level slot and successfully holds 5 humanoid king’s guards with the spell.

The Dispel Magic spell simply works automatically if it targets any spell 3rd level and below. The caster needs to make an ability check to ends spells of a higher level with a DC of 10+spell level.

If the king’s adviser wished to dispel the spell on one of the guards, would a check be unnecessary because he is attempting to end a 2nd level spell that affects multiple targets or does he need to attempt a DC16 ability check?

How can this in-combat healing specialist best spend their remaining levels and feats?

For an upcoming game (starting at ~level 9-10, continuing until level 20 or we get bored/distracted), I’ve been working on a build specialized in in-combat healing, with a secondary focus on buffing allies and disabling enemies. Unlike my usual experience with 3.5 character optimization, I find myself with spare levels and feats after "finishing" the character’s core concept. I’m seeking feedback on how to best spend these character resources to strengthen the character’s performance in its core roles, and perhaps shore up its weaknesses as well.


The Build

Race: Human

Ability Scores (32 point buy):

  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 14
  • Cha: 15

Build Table:

Level Class Feats Ability Scores Other
1 Cloistered Cleric 11 Imbued Healing, Combat Casting2, Travel Devotion3 Healing Domain, Knowledge Domain
2 Bard 1
3 Bard 2 Dodge
4 Bard 3 Cha 16
5 Bard 4
6 Combat Medic 1 Enlarge Spell
7 Combat Medic 2
8 Combat Medic 3 Mobility4 Cha 17
9 War Weaver 1 Reach Spell5
10 War Weaver 2
11 Sublime Chord 1
12 War Weaver 36 FREE Cha 18
13 War Weaver 4
14 War Weaver 5
15 Combat Medic 4 FREE
16 Combat Medic 5 Cha 19
17 FREE
18 FREE FREE
19 FREE
20 FREE Cha 20

1: of the Sovereign Host

2: Human bonus feat

3: from trading Travel domain

4: Combat Medic bonus feat

5: I haven’t asked the DM yet if retraining will be allowed. If so, this feat will be retrained after level 14, when War Weaver’s Enlarged Tapestry class feature makes it largely redundant.

6: From this point on, all prestige class levels advance Sublime Chord casting.


Goals

The build’s core goals are to:

  • Heal the party, using War Weaver to apply Cure X Wounds spells to all party members at once, with additional rider effects from Imbued Healing and Combat Medic, plus spontaneous Heal starting at level 16.
  • Buff the party, using War Weaver’s class features to do so efficiently in terms of actions and spell slots.
  • Perform various other support utility functions, such as removing status effects using Resurgence and wands of Healing Lorecall.
  • Disable enemies using spells that ignore saving throws, like Solid Fog, Fanfare, and Irresistable Dance.

I’m looking to achieve the following with my remaining build resources:

  • Find additional ways to improve the efficacy of my healing spells, or add additional rider effects to them.
  • Find additional ways to support my party that synergize with my existing suite of healing, buffing, and disabling.
  • Find things to do with my spare actions. The build currently has limited uses for swift actions prior to getting Arcane Spellsurge at level 15, and limited uses for standard actions after that (although increasing the action cost of spells via metamagic with Enlarge Spell remains an option). It also lacks things to do with its move actions beyond moving and activating Quiescent Weaving, though this is true of most builds.
  • Shore up weaknesses, such as the build’s low Fortitude save.

Things I’ve considered:

  • Gish stuff (Arcane Strike, Snowflake Wardance, Knowledge Devotion instead of domain, levels in Abjurant Champion): Gives me something to do with standard actions at high levels. My BAB is garbage but I can use a wand of Divine Power. This option is shiny but I suspect not actually good.
  • ToB dip: I can dip 1 level at 17+ and get level 5 maneuvers/stances, while still getting level 9 spells by level 20. White Raven Tactics is really, really good, and fits the character perfectly. On the other hand, losing caster levels, yuck.
  • Inspire Courage investment: Can I make this work? Not very many effective Bard levels for Bardic Music, unfortunately.
  • Fatespinner: Low barrier to entry, 4 levels fits with the build and doesn’t lose caster levels, class features are good for supporting. On the other hand, the build is already badly starved for skill points (can’t even keep Concentration maxed at some levels, though I catch up eventually), and Fatespinner requires even more.

The choices I’ve made in the build table above are also not locked-in; I’m open to suggestions to change the existing portions of the build in pursuit of the goals I’ve described here.


Restrictions

Allowed sources:

  • All official 1st party 3.5 sourcebooks
  • Official 1st party 3.0 sourcebooks, subject to 3.5’s standard rules about not using 3.0 content if a newer 3.5 version is available
  • All official WotC web content

Not allowed:

  • Dragon/Dungeon content (aside from that found in the Dragon Compendium)
  • Pathfinder content
  • Homebrew
  • Epic level content (if we make it to level 20, we will stop there)
  • Extremely setting-specific Forgotten Realms content (but content from Forgotten Realms sources might be allowed if it’s not too heavily based on Faerun fluff)

Not what I’m looking for:

  • "In combat healing is weak, you should play something else": Yes, I know; making the best in combat healing specialist I can even though I know it’s a weak character archetype is the whole point of the build.
  • Extreme metamagic cheese (e.g., Incantatrix levels to offset the cost of Persistent Spell): This is a higher level of optimization than I expect from the rest of the table, and part of why I’m committing to healing and support is to avoid overshadowing other players, who mostly have less system mastery and interest in character optimization than I do.
  • Extreme action economy cheese (e.g., Mark of the Dauntless to ignore the penalty of Celerity): As above.

Is there some way to skip or negate dead levels?

Is there any way to “jump” dead levels in a class? In other words, if a class does not gain any special features, you bypass that level and move directly on to the next level that does gain a special feature? This isn’t including spell casters as they usually gain spells at given level, but other classes… BAB and Saves are not included in this, just special class features….

Edit: This is question is mean for dead levels in Prestige classes not base classes. I’m sorry I did not specify that earlier… Playing in a Pathfinder campaign, taking prestige classes from 3.X can really keep a character behind in ways. My question should have been more along the lines of: Is it acceptable to abolish the dead levels in prestige classes when incorporating them into the Pathfinder setting?

There are few (if any) prestige classes that I can think of that taking out the dead levels would make characters OP. Though each prestige class would have to be gone over individually. Some do offer prestige class abilities that are based on the level of that prestige class that would have to be taken into consideration as well…

How to get your first 1d6 sneak attack without class levels?

There are numerous ways to get additional d6’s worth of sneak attack, but almost all of them require that you have 1d6 (or more) sneak attack before you can take them. How does one get +1d6 sneak attack damage from non-level sources when one has no sneak attack?

There is at least one way—Martial Stance (assassin’s stance) from Tome of Battle, which actually gives +2d6—but that isn’t available until 12th or (if the DM is generous) maybe 9th, and requires another feat besides.

  • Any Wizards of the Coast published 3.5e material, as well as any 3.5e content from Dragon and Dungeon magazines, is legitimate.
  • While stuff earlier than Martial Stance’s 12th is preferred, any content available pre-epic is acceptable.
  • Epic content is not allowed, even if you somehow cheese into it prior to epic levels.
  • Any kind of polymorph or shape changing is not allowed.
  • The sneak attack must be available on a continuous, permanent basis. A magic item is acceptable, as is a 24-hour daily effect (e.g. spell), but not anything less than that.
  • Persistent Spell, and any other means of turning a less-than-24-hour-duration spell into a 24-hours duration spell, are not allowed.
  • LA counts as “levels” for this purpose, as do RHD. No ECL can be consumed by a valid answer.
  • Bloodlines are not allowed.
  • Any form of “undoing” levels (e.g. level loss from energy drain or resurrection, curing lycanthropy, various rituals) is not allowed.
  • No assumptions about which classes are taken may be made, though you may leave achieving the necessary BAB/saves/skill ranks as an exercise for the reader so long as they’re non-epic values.

Really, what I want is feats and/or magic items that just say “you gain +1d6 [or more] sneak attack,” not some kind of shenanigan. Assassin’s stance proves it exists, and I’m fairly confident there’s some more out there (some named magic weapons, IIRC?). If you’re inclined to suggest a shenanigan, you may be well served running it by me in a comment before you spend your time—I have made every effort to provide a thorough list of the things I’m against, but if an answer manages to prove me wrong, I’m still not going to be happy with the shenanigan.