Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

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Kylun
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Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Kylun » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:50 am

So just cutting to the chase: the party friended a blink dog, rescued him from some captors that killed his pack and were torturing him. The hound has been tagging along ever since. Now the player who was the group cleric has had to bow out and there's no one on deck to fill her spot. I was thinking of giving the blink dog a class and having him fill the void for the time being. Have there ever been any rules for non-humanoid spellcasters? Verbal and somatic components I can explain away, but then there's the need for material components.

I even considered druid levels with wild shape allowing him to shapechange into a humnaoid being.

How about it? I can't be the only one to try something like this.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Cthulhudrew » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:07 am

Savage Species (3E, pre-3.5) notes that monsters who cannot speak can't cast spells with verbal components. I think somatic components would be easy (wag the tail, shake the head, etc) and material components shouldn't be a problem either. For the latter, in particular, giving the creature the Eschew Materials feat would be a really good fix.

There is the Natural Spell feat that allows druids to cast spells while wildshaped but I can't recall offhand if there is anything else along those lines. I want to say there is something out there in one of the splatbooks, but a quick perusal of the two likeliest sources- Complete Divine and Complete Arcane- doesn't yield anything. Maybe just give them a variant of Natural Spell (one that doesn't have wildshape as a prerequisite)?

Alternatively, considering that Blink Dogs are noted to have their own barking language, just have that count as the verbal component of the spell. It is never stated that the verbal component has to be spoken in Common, after all.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Kylun » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:51 pm

I'm thinking the same thing you are about the language. In various sources it is stated that blink dogs have a "complex language of barks, yaps, whines, and growls," so they obviously have a language. And as you stated, not every spellcasting race speaks common anyway. This even led to the humorous thought that if I go with my druid idea, when he wild shapes into a human or other humanoid creature, he just starts spewing nonsense. Much like when a human barks at a dog. He's not really saying anything, just emulating sound.

I also thought the same thing about somatic components with tail wagging and movements like when dogs do their little dance. I also thought it would interesting that because this would be his natural way of casting spells, he couldn't do it while wild shaped. He has no tail and he's bipedal, so he can't move the same.

I forgot about the Eschew Materials feat.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by timemrick » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:47 pm

You need a free hand to cast a spell with a somatic component. (See the section on components in the rules about reading a spell's entry.) Natural Spell specifically allows wild shaped druids to substitute other sounds and gestures in a form that lacks speech and hands, and to use material components melded with their form. DMs are free to house rule any workaround they like, but that's the rule as written.

An alternative would be to give the blink dog levels in a psionic class. Psionic powers don't require spell components, only thought, so can be used by any creature with a sufficiently high mental ability score. Typical blink dogs have a Wisdom bonus, but only average Int and Cha, so would make better psychic warriors than psions or wilders. However, if you raise its Int, the nomad discipline seems perfect for a blink dog.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Kylun » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:57 pm

I actually thought about that too. But the problem with that one is that psions don't really heal well like clerics do. And that's the whole reason to do this, with the team cleric gone, they don't have a party healer on hand.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Khedrac » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:26 pm

In addition, may I recommend getting a pearl of speech: Common as soon as possible - this will enable him to talk to the rest of the party...
They are also useful for druids, whilst arguably they stop workign if you wildshape while using one, any form with a mouth and face slot can equip one once you have assumed it.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Big Mac » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:40 pm

According to the SRD, a Blink Dog has a Level Adjustment of +2 (although that was intended for use as a cohort).

If you compare the Hound Archon Hero to the standard Hound Archon, you can see that the Hound Archon Hero is a standard 3e monster (in the SRD) that has 11 levels of Paladin. So, there is certainly president for you doing something similar with a Blink Dog, even though a Hound Archon doesn't have to be a dog all the time.

Blink Dogs can take up to 12 additional HD. If you don't want to use a standard Class, you might want to think about 12 Racial Levels of Blink Dog, if you want to have it level up (with the Blink Dog presumably gaining an extra "Racial HD" at the time it's new spellcasting abilities kick in).

The Monsters As Races rules can help you if you do want to add Class Levels (instead of Blink Dog Levels).
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Big Mac » Mon Feb 05, 2018 6:44 pm

Here is another idea. Have you considered having an NPC cast the Awaken spell on that Blink Dog? It would give you an excuse to bump it's intellegence and allow it to speak.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Kylun » Mon Feb 05, 2018 8:16 pm

Big Mac wrote:Here is another idea. Have you considered having an NPC cast the Awaken spell on that Blink Dog? It would give you an excuse to bump it's intellegence and allow it to speak.
I dunno, I kinda like the idea they have this sentient dog casting spells and they can't communicate with him. Ala Ein from Cowboy Bebop.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by timemrick » Mon Feb 05, 2018 10:07 pm

Big Mac wrote:Here is another idea. Have you considered having an NPC cast the Awaken spell on that Blink Dog? It would give you an excuse to bump it's intellegence and allow it to speak.
Doesn't work. Blink dogs are magical beasts, not animals, and they already have human-level Intelligence.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Kylun » Mon Feb 05, 2018 11:59 pm

Big Mac wrote:Here is another idea. Have you considered having an NPC cast the Awaken spell on that Blink Dog? It would give you an excuse to bump it's intellegence and allow it to speak.
You know, I've often wondered about the implications of using this spell. First off, how does a druid do this lightly? I mean, if an animal is awakened, he can never go back to his former life. It will be alone and isolated from others of it's kind. No mate. It seems like it would be a huge favor to something, but it might actually be a curse.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by Kylun » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:25 am

If anyone's curious I'm going with a LA +2 and gave him 2 levels of cleric along with the Eschew Materials feat, and giving him access to the Good and Lawful domains. I decided against the whole druid and wild shape idea. It seemed too hokey and didn't go with our campaign. The character level of 4 puts him 1 level below the PCs.
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Re: Non-Humanoid Spellcasters

Post by dulsi » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:28 pm

I created an April's Fool list of unusual encounters at one point. I don't remember if I ever posted it anywhere. It had a blink dog cleric.

Guard Dog

Sam is guard dog of the local tavern. His body is mostly brown with lots of black and some white spots. His face and tail both end in white followed by black. His collar carries a symbol of Saint Thomas. It is best to have the party meet the dog sometime before revealing his capabilities.

At some point have the party attacked by some undead. While the adventurers begin to engage some of the foes, Sam begins barking and growling at the creatures. The weakest collapse while others might turn and run. Sam is actually a blink dog and priest of Saint Thomas. He attempts to aid the party as best he can by blinking around and attacking. He will attempt to reserve his spells to tend to the wounded once the undead are defeated.
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