The Thrallherd in Eclipse

Today’s question is from Brett…

How would you build the thrallherd ability from the PrC of the same name? Specifically the fast recruitment, inherent loyalty and the method of recruitment, ideally as specific costs.

I am imagining it can be built using Leadership with some Immunities, or perhaps another model would be using Lure of Darkness and Web of Shadows ?

Hm. This sounds familiar; I think it was asked just before I spent several weeks being very sick and I forgot all about it… No matter! Here it is now!

The Thrallherd is a ten level prestige class, and thus has 240 CP to spend. A Thrallherd gets: +5 BAB (30 CP), +13 Saves (39 CP), d4 Hit Dice (0 CP), +20 Skill Points (20 CP), +8 Manifestor Levels (48 or 96 CP) – and six special abilities. Having spent 185 CP on the basics, they’ve got 55 CP left for the special stuff.

As it turns out, the special stuff only costs 40 CP – but it includes an absurdly-abusable natural law immunity, which is quite enough to make up for having a few points left over.

Psionic Charm (Ex): At 3rd level, a thrallherd adds psionic charm to her powers known (if she doesn’t already know it). Once per day, she can manifest psionic charm at a reduced power point cost. The cost of psionic charm is reduced by the thrallherd’s level, to a minimum of 1 power point. The effect of this power is still restricted by the thrallherd’s manifester level.

  • That’s Buying a New Spell (Spontaneous, Augmentable, 3 CP) plus 3d6 Power (as Mana), Specialized and Corrupted/may only be tapped once per day, only to pay for the use of Psionic Charm, cannot reduce the cost from the user’s general power pool below 1, 2 CP).

Psionic Dominate (Ex): At 5th level, a thrallherd adds psionic dominate to her powers known (if she doesn’t already know it) Once per day, she can manifest psionic dominate at a reduced power point cost. The cost of psionic dominate is reduced by the thrallherd’s level, to a minimum of 1 power point. The effect of this power is still restricted by the thrallherd’s manifester level.

  • That works exactly the same way as Psionic Charm does (5 CP).

Greater Dominate (Ex): At 7th level and higher, a thrallherd does not have to pay 2 additional power points when she augments psionic dominate to affect animals, fey, giants, magical beasts, and monstrous humanoids. This reduced point cost does not increase the save DC of the power as if she had spent the additional power points.

  • That’s Immunity/the need to pay extra power to get Psionic Dominate to affect animals, fey, giants, magical beasts, and monstrous humanoids. (Common, Minor, Trivial, 2 CP).

Superior Dominate (Ex): At 9th level, a thrallherd does not have to pay 4 additional power points when she augments psionic dominate to affect aberrations, dragons, elementals, and outsiders (in addition to the creature types mentioned in the greater dominate ability). This reduced point cost does not increase the save DC of the power as if she had spent the additional power points.

  • OK, now we’re talking. Upgrade that immunity to “Major”, for another (4 CP).

Finally we have “Thrallherd” and “Twofold Master“.

A Thrallherd can – with a Leadership score of 25+ – attract 85 levels of followers of levels 2-6 and 135 first-level followers along with two Thralls of (Their level -1 and -2, 17 maximum). That’s actually pretty much identical to the Standard Leadership package except for the extra “Thrall”.

They way they’re set up they’ll achieve leadership 25 by level 15 regardless – at which point they’ll have a level fourteen Thrall and (thanks to “twofold master”) a level thirteen Thrall as well. That’s a grand total of 135 first-level followers, 85 levels of followers of levels 2-6, and those L13 and L14 “Thralls”. Eventually, even though the table stops advancing, the Thralls will be level 17 (when the character is level nineteen).

So…

  • Take the basic Leadership ability and Born Leader. Make it Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect; it will top out at level fifteen, does not gain any benefit from Charisma, no more than two followers may exceed level six, despite the increased effects the others are limited normally and even the two followers who may exceed level six are limited to level seventeen or (the user’s level -1 and -2 respectively), whichever comes first, the user may be considered a cult leader, and may be subject to persecution for using psychic bonds to bind people to him or her (12 CP).
  • Now add Strength in Numbers, Specialized/only as a prerequisite and Horde, Corrupted for increased effect (all classes are available, rather than just warriors)/the user may be considered a cult leader, and may be subject to persecution for using psychic bonds to bind people to him or her (4 CP).

At level fifteen that gives you… plenty of level one followers, your L14 and L13 followers, 7 levels in reserve to boost those L14 and L13 guys to L17 eventually, and 101 additional levels of L2 to L6 followers instead of 85 – with the freedom to distribute those levels as you please. Not bad for 16 CP – although it will become pretty pointless at really high levels.

Of course, the REAL power of the Thrallherd – as described – is that lost followers are automatically replaced within twenty-four hours rather than 2d6 months regardless of how they’re treated or what happened to the old ones. Apparently it doesn’t matter if you’re stranded in a horribly hostile and otherwise uninhabited dimension, or if your last thousand followers all died horribly in your ongoing daily attacks against the invincible walls of some dark gods fortress, or if you are the last survivor of the multiverse at the end of time. People will be compelled to leave their families and communities behind and to (somehow) come and serve you. (Personally I’d say that that was pretty horrendously evil, but that’s up to your game master).

To pick up this aspect you’ll want an Immunity – ranging from a simple Immunity to the time requirements to replace lost followers on up to (depending on how silly you want to be) to a complete immunity to all normal requirements (reasonable treatment, there actually being people around to recruit, and so on) for gaining and replacing followers. I don’t see anything in there about any special loyalty, but given the replacement rate it doesn’t much matter…

  • That’s Immunity/time and practical considerations for the use of normally long-term special abilities such as recruiting followers, crafting, enchanting, and similar activities (Common, Minor, Legendary), Specialized and Corrupted/only applies to Leadership, still requires twenty-four hours (8 CP).

Even worse, of course, is that Leadership notes that “The cohort should be equipped with gear appropriate for its level.” Now that can be read as “They come with gear” or as “The character with Leadership must equip his or her followers – at least beyond the basics or mundane gear”. The Thrallherd ability has no notes on equipment at all (although the fact that they show up with no intervention needed from the PC might be taken to imply that they show up equipped) and no information on how loyal the followers are (although “very” is kind of implied). Ergo… nothing prevents you from having a 17’th level mage turn up, use up a bunch of wishes boosting one of your ability scores by +5, and then killing him off for his gear – and repeating the process the next day.

And yes, that’s absurd. That’s why I normally wouldn’t allow that particular immunity into play; natural law immunities can be extremely powerful and very silly. Admittedly, it’s no more powerful and absurd than the original poorly-thought-out ability – but I don’t really consider that an excuse for it. Writers need to keep track of this stuff and to think about how what they write can be abused.

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4 Responses

  1. In my quick note response to the poster, I may or may not have misread the ability. The problem is that the Leadership feat doesn’t define several aspects of how it functions. So it’s actually not clear where the Thrallherd “imporovement” improves on the old feat. Most people would assume that followers aren’t replced imediately, but Leadership doesn’t say when, where, or how they are replaced if at all.

    Any response is gonna make a few assumptions about what’s reasonable, the limits of the Thrallherd ability, and so forth. In fact, there’s something of a qustion of when and how it functions: does it work if you’re trapped via an *Imprisonment* spell? What if you’re on another plane entirely? Just how many “psionic links” can you have with random people you’ve never met and who have never met you? What if they actively hate you because you’re a dominerring monstrosity – can they rebel, fight back, or escape?

    The answer to all these questions is a giant shrug. it’s a class ability, therefore is just happens, good sense be damned. It takes a pretty stretched campaign before this class makes the slightest lick of sense.

  2. Something odd happened to this comment, so I’m restoring it manually – although it is likely spam, since it contains no original content, it’s at least well targeted spam and I couldn’t restore the URL anyway

    At every level from 2nd through 9th, a thrallherd gains additional power points per day and access to new powers as if she had also gained a level in whatever manifesting class she belonged to before she added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (bonus feats, metapsionic or item creation feats , and so on). This essentially means that she adds the level of thrallherd to the level of whatever manifesting class the character has, then determines power points per day, powers known, and manifester level accordingly.

  3. […] Building the Thrallherd in Eclipse: And why it’s a bad idea. […]

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