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    Ogre in the Playground

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    Dec 2007

    Default Re: Famous Optimized Character Builds Archive

    [Updated] Nanobots Conquer D&D (AC, Attack, and Skill Records)
    post by LordOfProcrastination

    The Nanobots Cometh

    Please enjoy this new method of optimization. If you don't feel like reading in detail, skip straight to the "World Records Build" section for the rockem-sockem bits.

    The Basic Idea

    Obtain and power a massive horde of individual allies ("nanites"). Program these nanites with the capability to help you do anything through ally-enhancement abilities. Order them all to use the "Aid Another" option in the manner you see fit. Reap game-shattering benefits.

    The Roles (or "What You Need to Become Nano-Enhanced")

    So, we need:
    1) A way to create/summon nanites (for simplicity, called "powering" nanites), and
    2) A way to make these nanites cabable of passing the DC 10 skill or attack roll check necessary for each to contribute a +2 bonus to those they are helping (called "programming" the nanites).

    I know that the vast majority of builds on the CO board are single-character builds, but as you can see here, two roles are necessary. A single character can fulfill both roles well enough, but D&D nanotechnology becomes even more potent when the whole party becomes involved. Let's work with "powering" and "programming" methodologies first, and then move on to integrate these capabilities into characters.

    I. Powering your Nanites

    After a long search and comparison with numerous methods, I have arrived at the conclusion that the best way of obtaining numerous individual allies which operate according to your will is use of the Animate Objects spell. Animate Objects animates one object of size Small or smaller per caster level with a duration of 1 round/level, and is a 6th level Bard/Cleric spell. Though the duration is limited, animate objects grants the versatility of being able to customize the objects you animate in size, capability, and flavor (more on customization later). Permanence is an option for 3000 experience points, an unsavory amount reserved only for those of high in-game need for exceedingly low-preparation action and xp to burn.

    II. Programming your Nanites

    However spunky, animated objects lack ranks in any skill whatsoever, and their dismal ability scores render them highly unlikely of successfully aiding characters (via the DC 10 skill/attack roll). This is where the Exemplar prestige class steps in. Found in Complete Adventurer, the Exemplar has every skill on its class list, great skill points, low entry requirements, and above all, the "Lend Talent" ability. Lend Talent allows the Exemplar to take a penalty on his/her skill checks up to his/her Exemplar class level while allies gain a competence bonus commensurate to this penalty.

    The details are straightforward, but the essential bit of this ability is that it offers said bonus to all allies within 30 ft of the Exemplar. As a kicker, once activated, this power remains effective for as long as your character isn't snoring or dead. Suddenly, all of those nanites can make their DC 10 checks, netting a +2 bonus per nanite to the checks of whomever the nanites are gathered about (e.g. the "help-target"). With enough nanites, the net bonus from all of the Aid-Another actions not only will outweigh the penalties the Exemplar suffers, but will quickly provide a stellar advantage in whatever skill the nano-programmer desires.

    The Mechanics of Nanobot Assistance (or "How to Make it Work")

    I. Sizing:

    In order to Aid Another (skill-wise), it is necessary for the nanites to be in a position to help. As Tiny-sized or smaller creatures with no reach whatsoever, most nanites will have to move into the same square as the help-target. Since the number of creatures that may fit unhindered in a square with a larger creature is determined by the nanite's size, it is necessary to make one's nanites the minimum size possible, Fine. 100 Fine creatures can fit into a single square with another creature of size Small or greater, so obtaining up to a +200 bonus will rarely be restricted by the help-target's size. However, in order to obtain the help of more than 100 nanites, one must somehow increase size (through any manner of transmutation spells, psionics, or abilities) such that s/he occupies multiple squares. No real trouble here, just a consideration.

    II. The Check

    The Aid-Another option is incredibly potent when taken on a large scale. Since most Nanite-Programmers have 9 or more levels in Exemplar, and thus give their subjects +9 on any skill they choose, success is literally guaranteed for 100% of involved nanites. For a single casting of Animate Objects at 20th level, this means +40 unnamed on nearly any check. However If the skill involves the Strength ability, because a Fine Animated Object's Str is 6, percentage of successfully contributing nanites drops several percentiles (dependant on exact Exemplar level). Still, with enough nanites, the chance of DC 10 failure will remain low enough that character will still gain huge bonuses.

    On the Attack/AC side of things, the numbers-game figures more prominently. Using size-regression from the Tiny Animate Object found in the Monsters Manual (via Monsters Manual chart 4-2), we find that Fine nanites have an attack bonus of +5, meaning that only 50% on average will pass. For the average "CL 20" animate objects scenario, though, this still means +20 to AC or attack, hardly anything to scoff at for a 6th level spell functioning over multiple rounds.

    As a side-note to the Attack/AC use of nanotechnology, having your nanites move into an opponent's square does produce an attack of opportunity. Actually, this isn't much of a bad thing. Out of a horde of 100-something nanites, it's doubtful that even a Combat-Reflexing two-weapon-fighter could put a meaningful dent in your helpers (especially if they're adamantine), and in even attempting the feat would waste valuable Attacks of Opportunity per round.

    Optimal Use of Nanites (or "What to do Now that You can get +200 on Anything")

    Time to whip out the Epic usages of nearly every skill in the book. :D With nanobots on their side, players gain pretty amazing skill and attack boosts. As always, there are ways to really make these high bonuses work for you. Here are a number of great ways to synergize (either for your Programmer/Powerer or for teammates) with Nanotechnology.

    Perform Checks are used in a number of prestige classes not only to access abilities, but to set save DCs or even damage. With a chorus of nanobots humming along, you can use the Stormsinger's "thunderstrike" to deal check-result damage (Frostburn), heal damage and block spells/songs with a Seeker of the Song (Complete Arcane), create damaging area-effects with a singular reason to actually keep taking Sublime Chord levels, or mix in some Virtuoso to disrupt spellcasting.

    Concentration is also a surprisingly good choice for the Programmer's lend talent aura. Spellcasters can really benefit from truly assured spellcasting, extra speed through Mobile Spellcasting or Extraordinary Concentration. If there's a Kensai in the team, boosting Concentration can mean the same thing as boosting Reflex saves.

    The other miscellaneous choices are truly only limited by player ingenuity. The Justicar's hogtie ability is a little strange but handy, sniping with Hide is utterly reliable for a whole team once more, Intimidate can become feasible with high level opponents (via Intimidating Rage), and a Spellcraft-enhanced Incantrix will never be able to thank his nanites enough.

    It's important to remember that a Nano-Programmer can activate and maintain up to 4 enabling lend-talent auras at a time (depending again on class level), so splitting up nanites to help a number of characters in a variety of tasks is an excellent option. As long as the golden 30-ft-radius is respected, nanotechnology can effectively enhance the actions of a whole team.

    World Records Builds

    The true beauty of Nanotechnology is that it doesn't involve simply exploiting some small broken loophole in the game. Moderate use of helpful hordes can be integrated into almost any challenging game without ruining the experience for non-optimized players. In fact, the very versatility and potentially multi-partisan nature of nanotechnology means that everybody in a team can get involved and gain benefits. The truth that Nanotechnology is pure 3.5, non-psionic, and doesn't involve hours of self-flagellation with an electric sword (vis a vis Shambling Mound and Zeugalak ) means a lot for playability and power.

    I. Builds that Power Nanites (still collecting more from suggestions)
    - Changeling Wizard 5/Mage of the Arcane Order 2/Incantrix 3/Recaster 3/Incantrix 4-10
    - Cleric 5/Sacred Exorcist 2/Contemplative 1/

    II. Builds that Program Nanites
    - Bard7/Virtuoso 3/Exemplar 10
    - Bard 5/Stormsinger 6/Exemplar 9
    - Paladin 5/Kensai 6/Exemplar 9

    III. Builds that Power AND Program
    - Wiz 5/Mage of the Arcane Order 2/ Incantrix 4/Exemplar 9
    - Artificer 11/Exemplar 9

    IV. World Records Build

    Classes: Cleric 5/ Dweomerkeeper 5/ Contemplative 1/ Exemplar 9
    Race: Kenku (Monster Manual III, LA +0, Great Ally)
    Domains: Magic and Planning, then Good via Contemplative
    Base Caster Level: 19
    Feats: Extend Spell (Planning Domain), Magical Training (1st), Divine Spell Power (3rd), Divine Metamagic (Extend, 6th), Consecrate Spell Trigger (9th), Skill Focus (your choice) (12th) Practiced Spellcaster (Cleric, 15th), Practiced Spellcaster (Cleric, 18th)
    Items: Staff of the Once-Immobile Minions [x2] (detailed below, 55,688 gp), Night Sticks [x29] (Libris Mortis, 217,500 gp total), Strand of Prayer Beads (25,800 gp), Orange Ioun Stone (30,000 gp), Item of Cha +6 (36,000), Stone of Good Luck (DMG, 20,000 GP), Tome of Leadership and Influence +4 (DMG, 110,000 GP), Breastplate of Command (25,400 gp), Circlet of Persuasion (4,500), Contingent Giant Size (13,300 gp), Bag of Holding Type IV (10,000 gp), Metamagic Rod of Quicken (x3) (225,000 gp)
    ---- 734,488 spent (still under the typical 20th level limit)

    Staff of the Once-Immobile Minions (27,844 gp)
    ---Animate Objects 375*CL 11 * SL 6 = 24,750 gp
    ---Mage Hand 375*CL 11*SL 1 *0.75 = 3094 gp

    Turning Check Calculations (for Divine Spell Power)
    +11 Cha (boosted by tome, enhancement, level bonuses, 32-point focusing) + 2 (breastplate of command) + 1 luck (luckstone) +2 (knowledge:religion) +3 competence (circlet of persuasion) +3 (Divine Spell Power) = +22 turning check, auto-maximizes the +4 bonus possible


    Rounds 1-3: Activate Lend Talent ability three times, each for a different skill of choice.
    Round 4: Activate Bead of Karma.
    Rounds 5-34: Cast Animate Objects via the Staff of Once-Immobile Minions. Every time, Extend it with Divine Metamagic and activate with Consecrate Spell Trigger, giving each casting the Good descriptor. Uses own caster level, which is enhanced from 19 to 29 through Items (Orange Ioun Stone and Bead of Karma, +5), the Good Domain ability (+1), and Divine Spell Power (+4 through automatic maximum success on each turning check). The turning attempts necessary for the Consecrate Spell Trigger feat, the Divine Metamagic Feat, and the Divine Spell Power feat are supplied via Nightsticks.
    Rounds 35-53: Keep casting Animate Object enhanced as before, but without Extending it with Divine Metamagic.
    54-62: Switch over to backup staff during this period. Standard-action animate objects continue. Commence casting an additional version per round by use of your Metamagic Rods of Quicken.
    Round 63: Laugh like a mad scientist as a free action, activating the Contingent Giant size, which increases personal size to Colossal. Cast Animate Objects once as a standard action and once with the last charge of the last Metamagic rod.
    Round 64: Order all nanites to "Aid" you on a skill check chosen from the three lend talent auras in action. Since you are colossal and occupy 25 squares, all of your minions can touch you. At this point, there are 66 separate castings of Animate Object in play, each cast at CL 29, so some 1,914 Fine-sized nanobots help out, each supplying +3 to your check/roll (via Great Ally racial ability) for
    a total bonus of +5,742 to almost any skill you desire.
    Optionally, this could also mean a +4,593 bonus to AC or Attack

    Yes, it's that powerful when you take nanotechnology to the extreme. I'm fairly certain that this busts just about every Skill bonus, AC, or Attack Bonus record on the Character Optimization board.

    That said, there are still more places to go with Nanotechnology. Sans the giant build-up, nanite helpers can provide a boost of optimized help which doesn't necessarily break the game. I'm turning to the CO board's expertise to develop new, optimized Nanite Power and/or Nanite Programming builds, particularly in the realm of boosting nanite attack values and making use of on-call uber skill checks. I'll be posting additional content regularly, but your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

    To get things started on the more sane and accessible side of Nanotechnology:
    Alternate Methods of Nano-Power: (or "How Else to Obtain Your Miniature Horde")

    Undead: Who wouldn't want an undead army that terrifies your enemies AND helps out around the lair?
    - Strengths: High thematic potential, well-documented perfect mental control of minions, undead animation tends to have nigh-infinite durations, necromancy synergizes well with Dragon's theurgic feats.
    - Weaknesses: Difficulty of procuring numerous Fine bodies at whim, social difficulties that arise from walking into town with a whirlwind of zombie bats, the innumerable spells, classes, and feats designed to kill undead which tend to work particularly well against low-HD minions, Animate Undead costs 25 gp per corpse. Yuck. More efficient methods include use of the "Fell Animate" feat from Libris Mortis, or the Plague of Undead, and Animate Legion spells.
    - Getting it Done: If you're patient, use the Pale Master's 1/day componentless animate dead to slowly build an army. If you're impatient, carry bags of (bat) holding and use Fell Animate to kill and raise yourself a swarm at will. Plus, there's always the Dweomerkeeper's supernatural spell ability to skip out on costs.

    Animals: The original (hamburger) helpers.
    - Strengths: Reliability of duration of minion support, cheap, social acceptability, fuzzy wuzzy
    - Weaknesses: Zero protections and low hp, skittish nature in-character, necessity of cranking up Handle Animal (unless you want to train bats for weeks at a time before they become of any use)
    - Getting it Done: Boosting your Handle Animal skill through any number of conventional means. Nothing terribly odd here.

    Planar Allies/Planar Binding/Spirit Binding: Borrowing minions from other realms = not likely to win much favor with anyone.
    - Strengths: Your choice of assorted pint-sized outsiders and elementals, possible synergy through creature-particular special abilities
    - Weaknesses: Generally unstable and unwilling servitors, possible undisclosed costs of summoning, spells in question summon only 1 or 1-4 creatures at a time
    - Getting it Done: The spells are on your primary casting list. Move along...

    Unseen Servant: Crazy as it seems, these nigh-forgotten helpers can pull off nanite behaviour. According to the PHB, an unseen servant "can't perform any task that requires a skill check with a DC higher than 10 or that requires using a skill that can't be used untrained." Thus they can make the exactly DC 10 check necessary to aid another.
    - Strengths: Available at low levels, invisible and unobtrusive, huge duration, formless and shapeless nature leaves it up to you to determine how many can fit into one area, crazy arcane flavor
    - Weaknesses: Inability to help out with AC or "to hit" rolls due to spell constraints, specific limitations on skill-help, extreme fragility (6hp, no protections)
    - Getting it Done: The spell Servant Horde from Complete Arcane is a 5th level conjuration that produces 2d6+1/level (max +15) of these handy fellows. For the green at heart, Wood Wose from Complete Divine is a druid's unseen servant spell

    Boguns: From the Complete Divine spell Beget Bogun, you can obtain a Tiny helper for only 25 xp. So cute
    - Strengths: A high intelligence means that Marshal auras could apply, permanent duration,
    - Weaknesses: 25 xp cost each, 8-hour creation time each
    - Getting it Done: Just cast the spell. Boguns are probably not for the combat-minded, but if duration and versatility are your hot-buttons, begetting 20 boguns costs 500 less experience points than casting permanence on a 20th caster-level Animate Objects...

    Gate: For those taking the role of the Nano-empowerer, this spell can be top notch in temporary low-cost nanite summoning.
    - Strengths: HD-based multiple-creature-summoning potential, high customization, neato special effects
    - Weaknesses: 9th level spell means inaccessible for some and expensive to multi-cast for others, still tough to find well-protected small minions in any MM book
    - Getting it Done: If you're canny, the xp/monetary payment option for prolonged service could be potent with the right in-game haggling.

    Prying Eyes: 1d4 + Caster level Fine-sized constructs with build-in Hide and Spot capabilities? Sound great.
    - Strengths: Lower level spell than animate objects, natural Spot and Hide bonuses, hour-per-level duration, spell-related reporting abilities
    - Weaknesses: Low combat durability (1 hp and no protections), slightly questionable rules mandate for non-spying activities
    - Getting it Done: One dash of 9th-level-or-higher wizard, apply metamagic (twin, repeat) liberally

    Alternate Methods of Nano-Programming: (or "How Else to Make your Horde Useful")

    - Marshal: From first glance, taking levels in marshal seems like a quicker and more powerful way of enhancing your numerous companions via the assorted minor auras. However, the drawback appear rather quickly: only one skill-boosting aura can be in effect at once (i.e. no "spotting" AND "moving silently" at the same time), the auras only apply to allies with intelligence of 3 or higher (ruling out the vast majority of time-and-cost effective nanobot sources)

    - Stat-Boosting: A variety of class abilities and spells can be used to affect allied creatures base abilities, the bonuses from which can be used to make skill checks or attack rolls to help out the Nano-enhanced team. The trouble is finding a balance between the types of boosts one can apply to large numbers of allies, the duration of both the enhancers and the nanobots themselves, and the relative utility of simply saving said spells for yourself. I haven't done the complete research on this particular topic yet, but my impression that stat-boosters that work on a truly significant scale are few and far between, forcing nano-enhanced players to deal with mere percentages of their drones making the checks necessary to help out each time.

    - Warchanter: At the 10th level of this Complete Warrior prestige class, the Inspire Legion ability allows every creature within 60ft to adopt the base attack bonus of the highest BAB creature amongst them. Coupled with a +2 bonus on damage rolls, this ability automatically makes a nanoswarm battle-ready and highly damaging. Since this ability can be obtained by 15th level, versatility-minded programmers can still sneak in the essential 4 levels of Exemplar for skill aid.

    FAQ (Work in Progress)

    Q: Aren't nanobots or nanites or nanoagents specific technical entities that aren't adequately described by your middling-sized little constructs?
    A: Yep. Consider this a D&D approximation -- I understand the distinction, but isn't it more fun to call these particular miniscule swarms of helpers nano-something?

    Q: If caster level is the limiting factor for the number of objects animated and the duration of the spells, why haven't you used a tricked-out Use Magic Device check to crank out hundreds of nanites with each casting?
    A: Unfortunately, the proper use of UMD in relation to staves (a popular source for Animate Objects castings is still hotly contested. Let's not dip our fingers into an acid-filled wishing-fountain for loose change when the mint's already open.

    Q: Could the Dual Nano-Power-Programmer beat the H.I.V.E. at poker?
    A: Depends on who casts cheat first. :P

    (New Questions and Answers)

    Q: What about the fact that animated objects and undead (among other nanobot types) are mindless? Doesn't that mean they can't use any skills?
    A: The short answer is yes, they can use skills according to D&D rules. It's a matter of having non-Intelligence as opposed to zero intelligence. The detailed explanation can be found here [broken link].

    Q: How about "Trained Only" skills? Can those be used too?
    A: Yep, the Aid Another action allows creatures to help out with skills they normally wouldn't be able to fully comprehend on their own. The one full-skill exception is Use Magic Device, the only skill for which Nanobots do not claim the world record. For an in-depth reading and explanation of these rules, check out my clarification further down on this page.
    Quote Originally Posted by further down on this page
    Nanotechnology and "Trained" Skills

    First, let me be crystal clear in my source material -- I am relying on the precise wording of the Player's Handbook (and all of its eratta) on pages 64-66, rather than on any SRD. The SRD is a great idea, but the plethora of not-quite-identical versions and lack of detail makes it unsuitable for in-depth analysis of complex combinations.

    The PHB (and most SRD) descriptions in the "Trained vs Untrained" section accurately describe how without ranks in a "Trained-Only" skill, completing a task in a "Trained Only" skill is fruitless. The wording and language of the restriction makes it clear that the issue is knowing what to do to successfully accomplish a typical use of the skill. Straightforward, right?

    When we move down to the "Aid Another" section (page 65/66), something interesting emerges. The topic rather ostentatiously ignores "Trained/Untrained" distinctions and talks about how people can help out each other by making related skill checks. When it describes the limitations on "Aid Another", it very specifically only restricts the use of the Aid Another options in the cases where a specific class feature or feat is necessary to obtain access to a specific facet of the skill, as clarified in a special restriction section in the skill-description. The examples given are Search, Survival, and Disable Device, all of which bear a unique and distinction "restriction" section in their skill description completely separate from the Trained/Untrained distinction. The only other skill with such a restriction is Use Magic Device, which again specifically restricts the use of "Aid Another" in conjunction with this skill. The PHB makes a big point of singling out the very specific places where Aiding Another is limited. The fact that this singling out and set of specific restrictions occurs completely separate to the "Trained-Only" descriptor heavily implies the rule-uniqueness of the Aid Another action compared to typical personal skill use.

    In short, it seems clear that the PHB establishes has two standards for skill-attempt capability: to do a skill on your own, you have to pay attention to the Trained/Untrained dichotomy. When not making the check for yourself, but rather are doing an "Aid Another" action, what matters is the specific restrictions outlined for the skill. If you're in any way skeptical ask yourself, "If Trained-Only status is supposed to govern the Aid Another action, why would they bother with specific restrictions?"

    Of course, if anyone isn't convinced by this reasoning, that's fine. DM adjudication will always win in the end, but at least it should be very clear that Nanotechnology still can produce massive AC/Attack benefits and help out on most skills.

    Q: I read the Animate Objects spell in the SRD/PHB and it doesn't say anything about being able to Aid. What's the deal?
    A: The deal is that animate objects spell creates "Animated Objects," full creatures that obey the caster's every command to the best of their abilities. The spell references back to the Monster Manual for complete details, and if you're interested in reading thorough rules explanations, you can find them in this thread, here [broken link] and there [broken link].

    Q: I want to make reeeeeaaaallly miniscule nanobots using animate objects, but the Monster Manual doesn't have a direct entry for Diminuative or Fine animated objects. Are itty bitty buddies even allowed? What can I do?
    A: Luckily, the D&D creators foresaw sizing issues like this and made it easy to resize or create variably large creatures. The easiest and quickest way is to use the sizing table from page 291 of the Monster Manual. Just run it in reverse for making things smaller. Once more, a full rules discussion can be found anon [broken link].

    Q: World records are neat, but isn't this stuff just mechanical jibberty jabber? I mean, could anyone actually use nanobots?
    A: As much as I love making game designers cry, the real intention of this thread is to introduce a new way of using well-known but under-used game options for all-around optimization. If massive temporary hordes aren't for you, check out the Alternate Methods sections to mix and match nanotechnology tricks to fit your character concepts and needs.

    Special Credit goes out to Carnivore and his animal helper thread which got me started along the path to ruin

    --- post 2 ---

    Nanobot Flavor: Skills

    An adamantine sphere is hardly the ideal source of aid for a variety of skills, but then again, animated objects (or animated basic geometric shapes for that matter) hardly represent the breadth of nanotechnology possibilities.

    End result: A need for inventive, flavorful nanites or interesting in-game interpretations/schemes for existing nanobots to make things work. Here are are variety of options drawn from the fertile minds of this thread's contributors.

    All-Around Skillful Nanobots (LordofProcrastination)

    Looking for something? Animate a collection of glass shards or lenses that amalgamates into a 360-degree variable-magnification micro/tele-scope for all your Spot or Search checks. Maybe a spellcraft check or simply smart instructions could have your unseen servants bend the light passing through them a bit for a similar affect.

    How about stealth? I'm a fan of camouflage-colored cloth strips that muffle your steps (Move Silently) and blend your entire team into the shadows (Hide). Boguns, prying eyes, and Bats already have hide-bonuses, so they're ready to roll from the get-go.

    Mobility skills like Jump, Balance, Tumble, and Climb fare well enough with the image of hundreds of invisible, supportive pressures, or zestified by a set of well-trained springs.

    Nanobots are probably toughest to sell when it comes to mental efforts. Then again, in a magical world, nonscientific explanations that would come off as New Age fluff in real life could hold serious weight in a superstitious world with multiple corresponding sub-systems/explanatory models of power derivation. Who knows, maybe a massive array of antennae really is the thing to focusing one's mind (Autohypnosis or Knowledge checks). Acupuncture needles or massage balls could relax the body into ignoring outside distractions, improving Concentration. For mystical types, rare-material objects or inherently magical minions could be commanded to subtlety redirect natural flows of magic to improve one's own arcane efforts (Spellcraft).

    Precision skills definitely work well with the right tools. Does an animated swarm of surgical instruments (Heal, Disable Device, Forgery, Open Lock) sound like modern robo-mechanical assistance or a pack of interns to anybody else?

    Charismatic efforts most likely are best attuned to the personal flavor of the character as well. For some, a scintillating array of semiprecious stones swirling harmoniously around one's body could be just the thing to distract (Bluff) or awe (Diplomacy) potential targets. Intimidating nanobots might hearken back to surgical tools or other spiky-looking threatening hordes, or just freak enemies out with the sense that they're being silently watched from every angle (prying eyes or unseen servants). I'd mention the potential of having your own thousand-piece band/chorus/orchestra for accompaniment, but I'm guessing that most Nano-Bards are already having a ball Performing for their friends and enemies.

    The Crystal Connection (Tempest Stormwind)

    I'd suggest crystalline objects for anything transparent (by the way, multiple lenses = powerful microscope. Given how loupes and lenses boost Appraise, imagine what this could do. For objects by weight, simply look at the various Strength scores of these devices, or what weight they can support before they drop). This has two advantages:

    1) Psionic effects have an affinity for crystals. This means that you can better explain some of the mental affinities as generated psionic resonance (see the Shards for samples of this), and (due to psionics-magic transparency) accomplish similar feats to your supernatural ones listed above.

    2) There's already an easy way to carry all of these, although it takes a wee bit of revising -- Hover Field. A sample revision is here [broken link], although I would have handled it differently (for instance, it's not out of range of a 1st level power to move "one object per level" subject to a total weight limit, which is itself augmentable). This means you aren't limited to the speed of the nanites, and you can move them as YOU see fit (if you revise the power that way).

    Healthy Tidbit (Lokiyn)

    How small can you make these animated objects? if you could get them small enough then for heal checks you could insert 100's of tiny beads or tiny star shaped bits of biodegradable material that help you repair the body from the inside out. (LoP Interjection-- due to the flexibility of D&D sizing options, this neat option is technically feasible for the less-than-squeamish.)

    Tackling the Tricky Stuff (Zubon)

    "A sheetlike object can fly (clumsy maneuverability) at half its normal speed." Remember when justifying to your DM that most of the objects cannot fly. The image of hundreds of floating adamantine balls is appealing, and one can see how they would easily assist in Jump, for example ("I have thousands of metal spheres supporting me as I leap to the top of the mountain"), but they might have issues since they only roll about. They do not hover. They could stack atop one another easily enough (Climb check, here we come!), but there are limits to what a sphere can do. Maybe use Fabricate to make thousands of Fine adamantine pixies. I hope you maxed ranks in Craft(Sculpting). Is a basket sufficiently sheetlike, or can the lid flutter? I like the idea of Craft(Basketweaving) being a source of nigh-endless power. At any rate, remember that we live and die by the rules, and the rules may not give your animated objects the abilities that spring to mind.

    Your adamantine spheres can, however, do many things, especially given that they can roll, hop (Jump), and stack themselves. Improving your AC and aiding an attack seem to be easy to justify. Hey, there are thousands of spheres tripping you up, and you plan to dodge? You plan to hit me through this mound of metal?

    Hide is another potential issue. It is easy to justify your hiding, especially given that you could have total cover from a layer of animated objects. The issue is their hiding, since they are using Aid Another rather than Hide. The same could easily apply to Move Silently. Sure, you are silent and invisible, but the orcs noticed thousands of scuttling objects, so they are going to investigate.

    You get around many of these issues with Unseen Servants or carefully selected objects, but remember that animated objects only have so much power infused into them. If you can give them better shapes or mobility, your explanatory ability goes up very quickly.

    Great idea with the magical pseudo-science, by the way. Super antennae, animated crystals, magic-channeling matter... yes yes, we can work with this... Perhaps a useful table would be a list of ideas for what sorts of objects would work well for each purpose. A few thoughts:

    Survival (Get along in the wild): Animate every bit of (dead) wood, rock, debris, etc. in the area. These will dig up edible mushrooms, point the way to water, swarm over small game, etc. The poor deer, being attacked by hundreds of animated leaves... Your skill check of 1d20 +23 (ranks) -9 (lend talent) +3 (Skill Focus) +4 (Skill Artistry) +2 (synergy) +2 (Self Sufficient) +4 (Wisdom 18) +7,467 (Aid Another) feeds 3,748-3,758 people per day. Your army will have no problems if supply lines are cut.

    Escape Artist will be a hard one, because it will be hard to do some of this in a situation in which you would need to make the check, besides slipping through a Wall of Force. What exactly you should animate depends on what you are escaping. Tiny blades would work well for many things, such as rope or when making the check to escape a grapple ("Please, hold onto me while hundreds of daggers are carving your flesh away from my body"). Hmm, maybe they should just attack in that case. Anyway, use your magical pseudo-science to explain how these gems/bits of mithral are helping you slip through the Wall of Force (sadly, they cannot follow unless the Aid each other in shifts to get through - untrained is allowed).

    Decipher Script: Animate dictionary pages (individually), pens, inkpots, paper, whatever will help you look through things. Animate glass shards for the lens idea in picking out details. Use your animated ink and papers to draw comparisons between fifteen versions of the language over the centuries and set them side by side. In this case, you are using all this matter as an inefficient computer, helping your brain process information literally in parallel by putting the options side-by-side. Your library may be a bit cluttered when this is done, but tell them all to clean themselves up.

    --- post 3 ---

    Building Your Nanobots:

    Miniscule minions of doom have to come from somewhere. Since the main varieties of nanobots are originally objects, crafting them can be as easy as making an endless succession of Craft (metalworking or leatherworking or glassblowing) checks or as fast as whipping out a Fabricate spell. If you're aiming for combat-readiness and durability, it is essential to apply a healthy high-caster-level dose of the Hardness spell from Eberron to the unworked material. If your material of choice is, like mine, Adamantine, a single application of the above spell can boost hardness to 30+, easily enough to sustain the average already-halved energy damage area spell, the main area-attack threat to one's swarming horde.

    Similarly, you can take advantage of the variable nature of the Animated Objects Monster Manual entry give them wheels to push their movement speed over 80ft or make them from cloth for a flight speed. If you're feeling daring (and your DM is permissive), forge them with tiny built-in polearms or chains to give them reach capabilities (possibly allowing flanking, depending on your reading of the DMG pg 29).

    On to the nitty-gritty. Nanobots have to be very small, and not just for flavor reasons. The amount that can fit in your square (and thus can aid you) is directly limited by their size. If your help-target is Medium, 100 Fine creatures can fit without restriction in its square. For more details on creature-fitting mechanics, go for pg 29 of the DMG once more I'll be sticking with Fine for the sake of optimization and simplicity. The 100 creature/square limit means that unless your minions have reach, your help-target will have to be Large or Huge to benefit from upper-end numbers of each. A Fine creature has a maximum space of a foot, or 6 inches, so even if that isn't quite "nano" in the traditional sense, this does allow us to test the maximum inert hit points (as determined by object depth) of your helpers.

    Without at doubt, adamantine has the best hardness for its cost, so we'll use that. The cheapest way to obtain adamantine is as ammunition, at a cost of 60.10 gp for five pounds (10 bullets). Assuming that adamantine has the same density as steel (since its substitution doesn't affect metal armor/object weight), 5 lbs comes out to 17.63 cubic inches of material, or 3.41 gp per cubic inch. For our 6-inch-diameter limit, a sphere of adamantine would encompass 113.04 cubic inches of material, coming out to a total of 385.24 gp per 3-inch-radius nanobot. At this maximum, the object is 6 inches deep, and thus has 240 hit points and a base hardness of 20 (pre-spell-reinforcement). I know that 100 6-inch-wide spheres in a humanoid's space would look a little odd (and pricey), but it scales quite nicely. A 1-inch-wide (0.5 inch radius) version around the size of a marble still has 40 hp and 20 hardness for a paltry 1.78 gp. In short, given the cost of adamantine, anyone with a little ingenuity, or mundane or spell craftiness will face no difficulty constructing a customized super-hard nanoswarm.

    As a side note, these hit points are only partially useful since in animated form, the nanobots adopt the paltry 1-2 hp of an animated object. Though the rules leave it up to the DM to adjudicate whether the removal of these hit points constitutes a total smashing of the animated object or merely sufficient damage to disrupt the energizing magics within it. Given the disparity in inert object hit points to animated object hit points, I'm in favor of the second view, thus lending reusability even to "killed" nanobots.
    Last edited by rockdeworld; 2014-02-03 at 11:52 PM.