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    Default 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    Normally, your communications are limited by the language and intelligence of other creatures. They need to be able to hear you, understand what you're saying, and smart enough to say something back to you (Intelligence 3 or higher). This is covered by Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, and Sense Motive.

    Wild Empathy allows you to effect the attitudes of animals and magical beasts of Intelligence 1 or 2, using the same DC's as Diplomacy. By default, most creatures you encounter will be Unfriendly, which means you only need to hit a DC 25 to make them Friendly. If they're Hostile, you'll need a far more difficult DC 40. Making creatures Helpful (DC 40 or 50) is probably not something you'll be able to pull off until a much higher level. But it's certainly do-able. In addition, various magic items allow you to use Handle Animal to effect the attitudes of certain creatures, and Skills in general are easy to optimize.

    This is generally NOT an optimal strategy. Killing enemies is a lot easier then befriending them, Wild Empathy and Handle Animal can only effect certain categories of creatures, and some DMs are going to get pissed that you keep "bypassing" many encounters with Skills. But occasionally, it can be awesome. And having played around with it, it's actually a pretty fun strategy and character concept, and it's a useful tool for many builds to have as an option.

    Classes and prestige classes
    • Totemist: Grants Wild Empathy, and several soulmelds that directly improve Wild Empathy (see below). This is a flexible, melee offense focused Tier 3 class, with a good mix of other abilities. Magic of Incarnum.

    • Bard variant: Grants Wild Empathy, an animal companion, nature sense, and resist nature's lure. But you lose bardic knowledge, inspire courage, inspire competence, inspire greatness, inspire heroics. Losing inspire courage is rough. But you keep bardic music (which is very useful for various other Feats and prestige classes), you are otherwise a Cha based class and thus have synergies with most of the stuff below, and can use the Improvisation spell (see below) for a very nice floating bonus to anything. So this is probably your best Tier 3 Skill Monkey option for using Wild Empathy. Unearthed Arcana.

    • Half-Orc Druid substitution levels: You get all the normal Druid stuff, with the following changes: At 1st level you add Intimidate to your class list, and your Animal Companion gets the Toughness Feat. At 4th level you lose Resist Nature's Lure, but can add your Strength bonus in place of your Charisma bonus for Wild Empathy, which lets you leverage the high Strength of some wild shape forms for Wild Empathy purposes. At 6th level you lose one Wild Shape use per day, but you gain the equivalent of the Augment Summoning Feat (without the need to waste a Feat on Spell Focus as a pre-req), which is very handy for Druids, since they can spontaneously cast Summon Nature's Ally. Half-Orc is generally considered one of the worst races in the game, but this can be mostly fixed with the Dragonborn template. Races of Destiny pg 160.

    • Shifter Druid substitution levels: At 1st level you add Balance, Climb, and Jump to your Skill list. You also give up your Animal Companion, and instead gain a "Beast Spirit" which provides you with a fairly strong suite of scaled ability score bonuses and other useful special abilities as you gain levels. This includes a +4 bonus to Wild Empathy and Handle Animal at 1st level. Being a Shifter qualifies you for the Shifter Magnetism Feat (see below). The 5th level racial substitution level is a trap, where you trade Wild Shape for better Shifting. But you are explicitly not required to take every level of a racial substitution class. Races of Eberron

    • Druid: Druid is a Tier 1 class that's really hard to screw up. And any Druid is going to be decent at Wild Empathy once you hit high levels. But the Half-Orc or Shifter Druid substitution levels will give you better Wild Empathy, without detracting any power from your overall build.

    • Chameleon: Wild Focus gives you Wild Empathy and a small bonus to Handle Animal. Alternatively (or in addition starting at ECL 13) they can use Arcane or Divine Focus to gain access to spells from pretty much any class or prestige class, which means they can use any of the handy spells below. At second level, you gain a Bonus Feat you can change each day, which is handy if you want a Trainer/Empathy Feat to effect a specific creature (or Shape Soulmeld or Open Chakra, if you're a Totemist/Chameleon). Races of Destiny.

    • Shifter Ranger substitution level + Wildshape Ranger variant: This is your best option if you want to play a full BAB class that also uses Wild Empathy. 1st level of Shifter Ranger adds Balance to your class list and allows you to use Wisdom instead of Charisma for Wild Empathy. And as mentioned above, being a Shifter qualifies you for the Shifter Magnetism Feat (see below). Wildshape Ranger variant trades away it's Combat Style feats for Fast Movement and the ability to Wild Shape (limited to small and medium animals). The higher level Shifter substitution levels are also worth it. Races of Eberron and Unearthed Arcana.

    • Warlock or Dragonfire Adept: Either of these classes can gain access to Wild Empathy and Speak with Animals from the Call of Beast Invocation. (The Warlock gets it as an option by default, the Dragonfire Adept has to wait until 6th level to take the Extra Invocation Feat). Both classes have limited resources though (which is what makes them Tier 4 or low Tier 3 at best), and giving up an Invocation for Wild Empathy at low levels (when Wild Empathy is most useful) can be a big investment. On the flip side, both classes are Charisma based, have access to UMD, and benefit from Bloodlines. Complete Arcane and Dragon Magic (and Complete Mage for Call of the Beast).

    • Beast Heart Adept: One level allows your Wild Empathy to apply to magical beasts of any Intelligence level, and levels of the class stack for determining Wild Empathy. There are plenty of magical beasts with Int of 3 or greater. On the flip side, your should probably just allow you to just use Diplomacy to communicate with them (since they're intelligent, and probably have access to some form of language), so you can probably just optimize that instead if you're worried about covering your bases. But it's also a decent mid-level Tier 4ish PrC thanks to it's other class abilities, so it's worth considering for certain builds. Dungeonscape.

    • Weretouched Master: Provides/stacks with Wild Empathy, and gives you +4 to your Wild Empathy for your "Ancestor" animal. As mentioned above, being a Shifter qualifies you for the Shifter Magnetism Feat (see below), and Weretouched Master also provides you with bonus Shifter Feats, which improves it. The pre-errata version of this prestige class also provides you with some ridiculous bonuses, arguably better then those provided by most Wild Shape forms. The post-errata version is far less tempting, but still an ok choice for a melee oriented build that wants to mix in some Wild Empathy. Eberron Campaign Setting.

    • Ardent: The Natural World Mantle grants Wild Empathy. The Ardent is a Tier 2 psionic class, so by default it's a pretty powerful and flexible option. But Ardent is Wis based, whereas the Wild Empathy is Cha based, and the Ardent has no way to boost Wild Empathy, and the powers you gain from the Natural World Mantle are mostly garbage. So while Ardent is a solid option, I wouldn't suggest playing an Ardent with Wild Empathy. Complete Psionics Handbook.

    • Swanmay: This prestige class stacks with Wild Empathy, and provides a scaled unnamed bonus (up to +6 at ECL 15), grants weak spell resistance, Favored Enemy, 9/10 caster progression, and you can turn into a swan, plus some other flavorful but not particularly useful class abilities. Though the Wild Empathy bonus is nifty, it requires 2 cruddy Feats for pre-reqs (which you could spend on other better things to improve Wild Empathy or whatever), and is strictly weaker then Druid or Ranger. Book of Exalted Deeds.

    • Ranger or Pathfinder Ranger: I wouldn't suggest either class, because they're some of the weakest options for getting access to Wild Empathy.

    • Animal Lord: This prestige class has a bunch of different variants, which Adds to your Wild Empathy bonus for those specific animals (horses, apes, etc). Otherwise a terrible PrC, so I'd skip it. Complete Adventurer.

    • Cavestalker: 2 levels of this prestige class gets Underdark Affinity, which allows them to use Wild Empathy on Vermin, but isn't otherwise that useful of a PrC. Drow of the Underdark.

    • Marshal: One level gets you the Motive Charisma aura, which lets you add your Charisma bonus (a second time) to all Charisma based Skills and checks. In the long run I don't think it's worth dipping in this class unless you intend to have a ridiculously high Charisma and are playing in a low-mid level game, but it's worth considering. Miniature's Handbook.

    • Nature Warden: Ranger or Ranger/Druid Pathfinder prestige class that allows you to use Intimidate with Wild Empathy, and eventually eliminates the magical beasts penalty and allows you to effect vermin and plants. Effecting additional creature types is handy, and you can Demoralize with Intimidate, and Demoralize is easy to optimize various ways. The class also lets you give Damage Reduction to your animal companion and Summoned allies equal to your class level, which is worthwhile in a Pathfinder setting, where DR is comparatively rare. But the Wild Empathy benefits can be duplicated with Feats or items (see below), and is overall including this PrC in your build would probably be weaker then a strait Ranger or Druid. Pathfinder.

    • Pathfinder Druid and Druid Archtypes: Pathfinder Druid is strictly weaker then the 3.5 version (or fixed, depending on your point of view). But if you're limited to a Pathfinder only game and want to use Wild Empathy, it's your best bet. But various Archetype options replace Wild Empathy with empathy for Vermin, Plants, Ooozes, or very specific animals (birds, bears, etc). This makes Wild Empathy weaker, since it applies to fewer creatures, and so these archetypes should be avoided. Pathfinder.

    • Spirit Shaman: Gets Wild Empathy at first level, but cannot use this ability to influence magical beasts. Can cast Druid spells spontaneously (using a nifty "choose your spells each morning and then cast them spontaneously" mechanic, but using duel Wis/Cha dependency) and have some flavorful abilities, but lack Wildshape or an Animal Companion. So low Tier 2, but not a particularly good choice to optimize Wild Shape.

    • Vermin Keeper: This prestige class gets vermin empathy at 1st level, but requires wild shape for entry, and isnt otherwise that useful of a PrC. Drow of the Underdark.



    Soulmelds
    • Note that soulmelds generally provide a bonus of 4 + (2 * essentia invested), and your essentia capacity is generally going to be between 1-4 (scales with hit dice) unless you invest in class levels/feats/magic items that increase it, in which case your essentia capacity can get up to a maximum of 8.

    • You can also access soulemelds/essentia/chakra binds with Feats, though it's often inefficient to do so.

    • Beast Tamer Circlet: Totemist soulmeld grants an Insight bonus to Wild Empathy and Handle Animal, plus at will Speak with Animals if you bind it to your Crown Chakra.

    • Shedu Crown: Totemist soulmeld bound to your Crown chakra grants Telepathy, which lets you communicate with any creature within 100 feet that has a language. Won't help you with animals and beasts, but it's just a great option to have for communicating with other creatures, and qualifies you for the excellent Mindsight Feat from Lords of Madness.

    • Unicorn Horn: Totemist soulmeld grants a Competence bonus to Wild Empathy and Move Silently. Note that the benefits of this would stack with Beast Tamer Circlet. So a mid-level Totemist has the option of a 1d20 + class level + 16ish + Cha Wild Empathy check, without any other optimization. (Though you're basically "giving up" two soumelds to do so).

    • Riding Bracers: Totemist or Incarnate or Soulborn soulmeld that grants an Insight bonus to Handle Animal and Ride Skills (but not Wild Empathy). If bound to your Totem chakra, if you're riding an animal or magical beast of low Int, your mount gains Evasion, and you can use the Handle Animal Skill to handle your mount as a free action or push it as a move action. This is actually extremely important if your DM is a stickler for the Handle Animal rules. Handling an animal is normally a move action, while pushing an animal is a full-round action. (Rangers and Druids get to ignore this for their Animal Companions).


    Races
    • Azurin: Gets a bonus Feat and a bonus point of essentia. Best option if you're going to be using one or more soulmelds. Magic of Incarnum.

    • Shifter: +2 Dexterity, -2 Intelligence, -2 Charisma, Humanoid (Shapechanger) type/subtype, some other minor perks, and the Shifting ability. At first glance, the Shifter is mostly garbage, and they have an Int/Cha penalty, which makes them a poor choice for a build looking to use Skills and Wild Empathy. But if you take the time to do the research, it can be optimized quite well. Shifter Feats improve or add natural attacks in a variety of ways, the Shifter Druid or Ranger substitution levels improve Wild Shape, and the Shifter Magnetism Feat (see below) can add a nifty bonus if you're heavily invested in Shifter Feats. Races of Eberron

    • Hellborn: Gets the Devil's Favor feat for free, which provides a +2 untyped bonus on any attack, save, or check (including caster checks, dispel checks, Wildshape checks, etc.), a number of times per day equal to the number of devil-touched feats you have. The Hellborn also has three "aspects" you can choose from at character creation, which provide different bonuses and abilities. Once the choice is made, it cannot be changed. The "Body" aspect is +2 Con, -2 Int, +4 vs Poison, and two additional devil-touched feats (one at 4 Hit Dice, and a second at 14 Hit Dice). The "Spirit" aspect is +2 Cha, -2 Con, +2 Sense Motive, and Darkvision which improves with hit dice and becomes 100 ft Telepathy at 15 Hit Dice. Azurin is
      Devil's Touched Feats suck, as does the potential Con bonus. But if you're playing in a high level game, it's worth considering for the free Telepathy. Fiendish Codex 2.

    • Dragonborn Lesser Aasimar: Lesser aasimars are humanoids, which means they can become dragonborn. Dragonborn is a great template like race and provides you with either a breath weapon, flight or improved sensory abilities. Your attribute modifiers will be -2 dexterity, +2 constitution, +2 wisdom and +2 charisma, without any level adjustment. Races of the Dragon and Players Guide to Faerun.

    • Dragonborn Desert Half-Orc: +4 Con, -2 Dex, and -2 Int, and Dragonborn abilities. This gives you access to the Druid Half-Orc racial substitution levels in the most optimal way, since being Dragonborn does not eliminate your original race, just most of it's abilities. Races of the Dragon and Unearthed Arcana.

    • Spellscale : +2 Cha, -2 Con, and "Blood Quickening" meditations. Each day you perform a meditation, which grants you a benefit of the some kind for 24 hours. The options mostly suck, but they include a number of bonuses that grant a racial bonus on a check equal to half the spellscaleís character level. The Hlal aspect provides a bonus to Perform plus the use of the Heighten Spell feat three times per day. Although the Con penalty sucks, it's worth considering for high level Bard builds for the high racial Perform bonus. Races of the Dragon.


    Feats
    • Chosen of Evil: As an Immediate Action take a point of Constitution damage to gain an Insight bonus equal to the number of Vile feats you have (including this one) to any attack, Save, ability check, or Skill check. There are actually a lot of potent Vile feats, so you could just load up them, and gain a great floating Insight bonus to pretty much anything. You can prevent ability score damage with Strongheart Vest Incarnate soulmeld, or heal it every round with 1 level of Binder for the Naberius vestige (which also helps a lot with Diplomacy and Bluff), or just get access to the Restoration spell and use the Feat more sparingly. Elder Evils.

    • Fast Empathy: You can use Wild Empathy as a Standard Action, instead of one minute, opening up ithe use of Wild Empathy in combat. Pathfinder Ultimate Magic.

    • Greater Wild Empathy: Basically a mini-version of the Nature Warden prestige class, but for just 1 Feat. You gain a +2 insight bonus on wild empathy checks, and you may use wild empathy to duplicate an Intimidate check rather than a Diplomacy check, and it adds one additional creature type of low Int that you can effect (elementals, fey, lycanthropes, plants, or vermin). Pathfinder.

    • Child of Winter: Lets wild empathy apply to vermin. Every D&D game I have ever played in has giant rats in it for some reason. And if you're playing in an urban campaign, you will end up in the sewers at some point. Note that Greater Wild Empathy is strictly superior to this Feat, though that's Pathfinder material and this is 3.5. Eberron Campaign Setting.

    • Dragon Trainer: Lets you use Handle Animal to train dragons. Now all you have to do is convince your DM to let you have a dragon mount. Races of the Dragon pg 98.

    • Nymph's Kiss: +2 bonus on all Charisma related checks, +1 bonus on saving throws against spells & spell-like abilities. and +1 skill point per level. Worth considering if you're a medium-low Int build that needs several Skills to function properly. Book of Exalted Deeds.

    • Savage Empathy: Removes the -4 penalty for checks against Magical Beasts. You can also select another creature type you can use Wild Empathy on. You can take this feat multiple times to add more creature types (but not Constructs, Humanoids or Undead). Dragon #326

    • Shifter Magnetism: Gain an unnamed bonus on all Handle Animal, Intimidate, and Wild Empathy checks equal to the number of Shifter feats you have (including this one). This bonus applies even when you're not shifting. Most shifter Feats are underwhelming, and not worth taking. But some them are things that any Druid or Widlshape Ranger would probably end up taking anyway, such as Multiattack, Improved Natural Attack, and other stuff that adds or improves natural attacks. So taking this Feat late in your progression will probably give you a +4 to +6ish continuous unnamed bonus. Shifter only. Player's Guide to Eberron pg 135.

    • Sooth the Beast: Spend a Bardic Music use to effect the attitude of an animal or magical beast with an Int of 1 or 2 with a Perform check (which is pretty easy to optimize). This Feat isn't as versatile as getting normal Wild Empathy (in that it's not technically Wild Empathy, and thus can't be modified by Feats/items/etc that improve Wild Empathy. But it is a decent option for a Bard who wants to effect the attitudes of a wider variety of creatures without giving up Inspire Courage. Eberron Campaign Setting pg 60.

    • [Creature Type] Trainer: Lets you use Handle Animal to rear and train other creature types as long as their Intelligence score is 4 or lower. This Feat does notably does not allow you to effect the attitude of additional creatures. Arms and Equipment Guide pg 73. (3.0 material).

    • Theurgic Empathy: When using your wild empathy ability, you can add your bard levels to your roll. So if your DM allows RAW shenanigans, it means with the variant bard, you are getting double your bard level to Wild Empathy checks checks. Alternatively, you could just use it for a Bard/Ranger or Druid build, and not bother with the variant Bard (keeping your Inspire abilities). Requires bardic music ability, druid level 1st or ranger level 1st. Dragon Magazine #325.

    • Undead Empathy: You can use Diplomacy to effect mindless undead. Mindless undead are common enemies in many D&D games. Eberron Campaign Setting pg. 61.

    • Vow of Peace: Can provide a lot of bonuses to Cha based checks, AC, plus Continuous Calm Emotions aura, which is very important to have access to if you want to befriend hostile creatures. And if a creature strikes you with a manufactured weapon, the weapon must make a Fort Save or shatter. And Vow of Nonviolence (prereq) boosts the Save DC of many abilities. The down side is that you have to vow never to harm any living creature, and your party has some strict roleplaying restrictions as well, and the Feat requires a bunch of cruddy pre-reqs, and it's Exalted (Good only). Never take this feat unless everyone in the party is on board with it. Assuming they are, this can actually be quite a useful feat for you, since it's assumed that you will use Wild Empathy or Diplomacy on everything living, and will be free to kill anything non-living. Requires Sacred Vow, Vow of Non-Violence. Book of Exalted Deeds pg 48.

    • Animal Friend: +4 Exalted bonus for Wild Empathy checks on animals and good-aligned magical beasts. BoED

    • Burrow Friend: +2 bonus on Handle Animal checks and Wild Empathy checks involving burrowing mammals. If you have a Spell-like ability to speak with burrowing animals, you get (Charisma mod.) extra uses / day. I'm morally opposed to spend a Feat to get such small bonus. Races of Stone pg 137.

    • Combined Empathy: Ranger and Druid levels stack for Wild Empathy checks. There's really no good reason for you to be a Ranger/Druid. Dragon #325.

    • Dinosaur Wrangler: +4 bonus on Handle Animal, Ride, and Wild Empathy checks related to Dinosaurs. Unless you're in a campaign world where there are a ton of dinosaurs, I wouldn't bother. Races of Eberron.

    • Spirit Sense: Letís you see an interact with spirits of the recently dead. In addition to it's normal uses (asking dead people who killed them, if they have any clues, etc), when combined with Wild Empathy this arguably allows you to communicate with dead animals and magical beasts, for whatever that's worth. If you're going to have access to spells or UMD there's no reason to waste a Feat on this when you can just cast the Speak with Dead spell. But if your schtick is communicating to resolve problems, you might want to be thorough. Heroes of Horror pg 124.


    Magic Items
    • Trappings of the Beast: If you have the armor, mantle, and ring in this magic item set, you get a +5 competence bonus to wild empathy checks. More importantly, these magic items improve your Wild Shape (+1 use, +effective level, Wild Shape as a Swift Action) and Summon Nature's Ally, making them great purchases for any Druid. Complete Champion page 135.

    • Pendant of Dragon Empathy: You can use a Handle Animal check in place of a Diplomacy check to influence the attitude of dragons with low Int. If you're optimizing Wild Empathy and Handle Animal, it should be easy for you to optimize Diplomacy. But it's cheap, so if you can't or don't want to optimize Diplomacy, it's worth taking. Comp Adventurer pg 134.

    • Amulet of Aberrant Empathy: You can use a Handle Animal check in place of a Diplomacy check to influence the attitude of aberrations with low Int. Comp Adventurer pg 132.

    • Circlet of Persuasion: for +3 competence bonus to all Charisma checks. 4,500gp, DMG.

    • Scepter of Obedience: Grants a +5 competence bonus to all Charisma-based checks. Miniature's Handbook, 12,500 gp.

    • Admiral's Bicorne: Grants a +5 unnamed bonus to all Charisma-based checks. But it's expensive. Stormwrack, 51,000 gp.

    • Ring of Sacred Mistletoe: +2 competence bonus on Handle Animal, Knowledge (nature), and wild empathy checks, plus the woodland stride ability and shillelagh once per day. Not as good as some of the other magic items listed above, but worth considering for Woodland Stride if you don't get it as a class feature. Pathfinder.

    • Serpent's Band: +2 vs Emotional Saves (Fear and such), can influence low int draconic creatures, and +4 Competence bonus to Handle Animal and Wild Empathy with Draconic creatures. Not as useful as other items listed above, but worth looking a if your campaign is likely to encounter a lot of draconic creatures. Pathfinder.



    Spells
    • Speak with Animals: Bard 3, Druid 1, Ranger 1 (also duplicated by the Beast Tamer Circlet soulmeld and Call of Beast Invocation): Allows you to communicate and understand animals. The key to this spell is that "If an animal is friendly toward you, it may do some favor or service for you." This is where Wild Empathy and roleplaying become really, really important. You meet an animal (maybe a pack of animals, maybe a dire animal, etc). You make them Friendly with Wild Empathy. You cast Speak with Animals and negotiate. Ask if they need any help - maybe the forrest is being threatened by poachers, maybe it's mate was killed by an Evil Wizard passing through, maybe their current master beats them or underfeeds them, and so on. Then ask for something small, in exchange for helping them or providing them with some small benefit. "Would you consider guarding our wagon while we go into this dungeon? I'll give you this beef jerky, plus whatever we kill in the dungeon?" After that, ask if the animal will come with you on your adventures in exchange for daily food and protection. End result is that if you can work in out in game and don't try to abuse the mechanic, your DM may be very open to basically giving you a free animal companion. And at the very least, you should be able to extract at least one favor or service from each animal you meet, as long as you're not a jerk about it. Getting access to this spell somehow is pretty much required for Wild Empathy to be useful for anything other then bypassing combat. But luckily, it's not that hard to do so. Player's Handbook.

    • Improvisation: Bard 1 spell. You gain access to a floating "pool" of luck for caster level rounds per level, which manifests as bonus points you can use as desired to improve your odds of success at various tasks. This bonus pool consists of 2 points per caster level, which you can spend as you like to improve attack rolls, skill checks, and ability checks, although no single check can receive a bonus greater than one-half your caster level. You must declare any bonus point usage before the appropriate roll is made. These points count as Luck bonuses for purposes of stacking. Complete Adventurer, Spell Compendium.

    • Calm Animals: Animal domain 1, Druid 1, Ranger 1: This spell temporarily prevents animals from attacking you, which should give you plenty of time to make them Helpful with Wild Empathy, or just bypass them. For Druids it's worth keeping at least one of these memorized, and for everyone else it's worth considering in a Wand. Player's Handbook.

    • Call of the Beast: Warlock Invocation, Least; 2nd: You gain Wild Empathy and Speak with Animals for 24 hours. As I noted above, I'm not a huge fan of Warlock or Dragonfire Adept for the purpose of optimizing Wild Empathy. But if you're going that direction, this is what lets you do it. Complete Mage pg 123.

    • Charm Animal: This is basically Charm Person, but for Animals. The mechanics for this are weaker then Wild Empathy - it only works on one target, they get a Save, it's magic, and "ordering" them to do things requires opposed Charisma checks. But if you don't care about Wild Empathy but still want to be able to boss animals around, and don't yet have access to Dominate spells, this is a method to do so. Player's Handbook.

    • Feeblemind: Wizard/Sorcerer 5. Reduces a creature's Intelligence and Charisma to 1, more or less permanently (Will Save negates). If a creature has an Int you can't use Wild Empathy against it. (You use Diplomacy/Bluff/Intimidate). This spell (and/or Touch of Idiocy or Ray of Stupidity) solves that problem. This probably isn't something that your build will take, it's something you convince the party's primary arcane caster to take. Why kill the evil big bad monster that hates you (and may be "immune" to Diplomacy because of DM fiat), when you can use Feeblemind and Wild Empathy to make him an ally instead?

    • One With the Land: Druid/Ranger 2. Gives +2 competence bonus on Wild Empathy, Handle Animal, Hide, Move Silently, Search, and Survival checks. Lasts for hours/level, so it's a minor but nifty all day buff once you hit high levels and a 2nd level spell slot isn't a big deal. Spell Compendium.



    Miscellaneous
    • Bloodlines have a an interesting quirk that can be optimized. "Include the character's bloodline level when calculating any character ability based on his class levels" such as Wild Empathy, caster level, meldshaper level, effective binder levels, manifester level and bonus power points, Tome of Battle Initiator Level, various level based PrC abilities (like Hellfire Warlock), level based saving throw DC calculations, bardic knowledge and uses of bardic music per day, a druidís Hit Dice limit and duration for wild shape, Knight's Challenge uses and DC, etc. "If a character has levels in two or more classes in addition to his bloodline levels, each class gains the benefit of adding the bloodline levels when calculating abilities." This opens up a bunch of interesting multiclass/PrC options, the Wild Empathy also happens to benefit from. Unearthed Arcana.

    • Handle Animal Skill: 5 ranks gets you a +2 bonus on Wild Empathy. It's also worth mentioning that even if you don't have Wild Empathy, using this Skill lets you buy and train animals. Most animals are dirt cheap, and can be trained for a wide variety of tasks. They're particularly useful outside of combat, where they can use their Scent to track, guard your camp while you're sleeping or in a dungeon, carry heavy loads, be used as a mount for faster travel, be used to assist with a variety of Skills, etc. In combat, they're most useful at low levels. Even if they don't deal much damage, they're useful as mounts (for faster movement and double damage from a lance), as flanking partners, and to Grapple or Trip enemies, or assist you with Aid Another.

    • Aid Another: Any creature can use this action to give you +2 to an attack roll, AC, or a Skill check. Multiple characters can aid the same friend, and similar bonuses stack. Abuse of this mechanic (typically through Animate Objects) is commonly called using "Nanobots." But even if you're not abusing it on a large scale, this is where having lots of friendly trained animals come in most handy, even if they're too weak to be in combat, particularly for Spot/Listen (to detect enemies), Search (to find traps), Survival (to track), and Intimidate (to Demoralize).

    • Masterwork equipment will give you a +2 to any Skill.

    • Charm Domain (Spell Compendium), boost Charisma by 4 for one minute. In general I would not suggest a Cleric base for a Wild Empathy based build (unless you can find some variant that grants it). But Domain Drought (DMGII) will give it to you for a day, or Planar Touchstone -> Catalogs of Enlightenment.

    • Lust Domain: Enhancement bonus to Charisma equal to your Cleric level once per day. Spell Compendium.

    • Nobility Domain: +2 morale bonus on ability checks. Spell Compendium.

    • Uncivilized: Trait that gives +1 untyped bonus on Wild Empathy and Handle Animal in exchange for a -1 penalty on Diplomacy, Bluff, and Gather Information. Unearthed Arcana.

    • Eurynome vestige: This 4th level vestige (Binder 7, or Binder 5 with the Improved Binder Feat) grants Animal Friend, minor Damage Reduction, Eurynomeís Maul, enemies that bite or swallow you receive poison damage, and, Water Walk. The Animal Friend ability makes all animals have an initial attitude of Friendly towards you. The Maul gives you a decent Large magical maul scaled to your binder level, that you can wield in one hand in without penalty due to size (which makes it a humerus option for Tiny/Fine sized creatures). This is a pretty weak vestige, and since Binders can't get access to Wild Empathy it's unlikely you'd take 5+ Binder levels just to get this. But Binders can change their vestiges every day, and effective Binder levels are progressed by Bloodlines. So it's worth considering for some niche situations (Maybe Variant Bard 3/Binder 2/PrC X/Major Bloodline 3?). Tome of Magic.

    • Goad: Exotic reach weapon that deals non-lethal damage, in case you ever want to capture something without killing them. Also gives you +2 to Handle Animal checks against Huge or bigger animals (which works regardless of whether or not you're proficient in it. So it might be worthy buying just to carry it around for that circumstance). Frostburn.



    Note that Pathfinder does not have much support for Wild Empathy, and the Pathfinder Diplomacy rules are nerfed (or fixed, depending on your point of view). So I wouldn't bother with optimizing Wild Empathy at all if you're playing in a Pathfinder only game. But if you're playing in a Pathfinder game that allows 3.5 material or vice versa, then it's potentially a great option.

    If you have any additions from any source, please let me know. Thanks.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    The feat Theurgic Empathy (Dragon #325) lets you add your bard levels to your WE checks. That means with the variant bard, you are getting double your bard level to WE checks. You have to dip ranger or druid for 1 level to get the feat, though.

    Since WE is a level-based calculation, bloodlines apply. If you have more than one class that stacks for WE, your bloodline level applies to each class. Dipping prestige classes can get you a massive bonus if you have a major bloodline.
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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    Thanks prufock, I've updated the list with your suggestions.

    The more I read through it, the more I realize that Wild Empathy is an overlooked gem for nature-y classes. It takes very little investment to get it fairly high, and having it basically allows you to "win" encounters with fairly common creatures.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch 'em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    This is very cool, a nice mini-guide to one of my favorite underused skills. I tend to play druids, and wild empathy is something that never gets as much air time as I'd like.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    It looks like you're missing the Trappings of the Beast from Complete Champion page 135. If you have the armor, mantle, and ring, you get a +5 competence bonus to wild empathy checks.

    Edit: Also, the fourth level half-orc substitution level from Races of Destiny page 159 lets you use your strength mod instead of your charisma mod for wild empathy checks. It loses you resist nature's lure, and lets you leverage the high strength of some wild shape forms for wild empathy purposes.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2013-09-13 at 08:12 PM.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    You might want to mention the Burrow Friend feat (Races of Stone), the Dinosaur Wrangler feat (Races of Eberron), the Nymph's Kiss feat (Book of Exalted deeds) and the Shifter Magnetism feat (Player's Guide to Eberron).

    A Animal Lord dip (Complete Adventurer) and a Weretouched Master dip (Eberron Campaign Setting) both give a +4 bonus to Wild Empathy checks with specific animal types.

    The Swanmay (Book of Exalted Deeds) gains bonuses to Wild Empathy checks, at 10th level it's a total bonus of +6.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    Stark Fist of Pedantry: "Effect" = noun, "affect" = verb.

    Other than that, top-notch work. Do we have any builds that are the equivalent of the Diplomancer or Jumplomancer for Wild Empathy?

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    Thanks for the additions everyone, I've updated the main thread. Will try and add some cool builds soon.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    I know it is not directly connected to wild empathy checks, but a binder with Eurynome (a 4th level vestige) bound has the initial attitude of all animals switched to friendly, reducing the DC needed to get them to helpful.

    There is also that one warlock invocation (call of the beast, CM) allowing for a charisma focused class with wild empathy access.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    I just wanted to note that while bully animal, the wild empathy relevant half-orc substitution level, probably isn't worth being a half-orc druid, the other substitution levels probably are. The sixth level ability trades a wild shape use/day for prerequisiteless augment summoning, which is basically two nearly free feats, and the first level ability gives your animal companion toughness for nothing, which is better than the not toughness you get on a normal druid, if only marginally. You also get intimidate as a class skill, which is decent.

    The traditional best choice of half-orc is the desert half-orc, which has +2 con, and -2 int. They also get run, heat endurance, and low-light vision, but I'd generally trade that out for dragonborn stuff, which is obviously better. +4 con, -2 dex, and -2 int is a good set of ability score modifiers on a druid. Anyways, my point is that going half-orc on a druid isn't necessarily as high cost as it initially appears, though you can still probably do better with a different race.
    Last edited by eggynack; 2013-09-16 at 05:33 PM.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    More updates per the comments. Apparently Wild Empathy is a lot easier to get then I first thought, which is a good thing.

    Also, I'm not sure if this was just my group or if this was RAW, but in previous editions, when I played a Druid, he had to go out and role play finding and befriending an animal to become a companion. I think that many old school DMs are perfectly willing to let players have animal friends who help them out on stuff, as long as they don't abuse it. Hopefully Wild Empathy can provide you with an outlet to do so.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    I can't believe I missed it but Shifter might be an even better race than already suggested. The 1st Shifter Ranger substitution level and the 1st Shifter Druid substitution level both improve Wild Empathy.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    A few things that are not directly relevant to Wild Empathy, but thematic and may be relevant and useful.

    The Arms and Equipment Guide has a feat called [Creature Type] Trainer, which lets you use Handle Animal to rear and train other creature types as long as their Intelligence score is 4 or lower. Of course, you can do similar with an epic Handle Animal check, but this feat means you use the regular DCs.

    I'm thinking Chameleon 2 would be a good dip for such a character. You could pick up a different [Creature Type] Trainer or Savage Empathy each day, depending on what creature type you think you'll be encountering.

    The Intelligence limitation for many of these feats screams at me that you should have some way to damage or drain INT. Touch of Idiocy, Feeblemind, and Ray of Stupidity come to mind. Feeblemind is particularly good, since it's instantaneous, and you can then apply other spells or items to increase INT or CHA to the desired level, while remaining below the limitation.
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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    I was reading up on druids for a PF game I have coming up, and I noticed something interesting - Cave Druids can use Wild Empathy on oozes. So you can add some pretty interesting monsters to your stable with that archetype, particularly in a 3.P game.

    This lets you get access to that ability without needing Dragon Magazine.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    I was reading up on druids for a PF game I have coming up, and I noticed something interesting - Cave Druids can use Wild Empathy on oozes. So you can add some pretty interesting monsters to your stable with that archetype, particularly in a 3.P game.

    This lets you get access to that ability without needing Dragon Magazine.
    That's true. But you give up the ability to influence Magical Beasts, which would probably be more useful.


    Also, I made a bunch of updates. Thanks to everyone. Please feel free to post builds, questions, or additional resources/ideas if you find them.

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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    Quote Originally Posted by Person_Man View Post
    That's true. But you give up the ability to influence Magical Beasts, which would probably be more useful.
    I dunno - I can't think of many magical beasts that could beat a living spell, especially a mxed one

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
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    Default Re: 3.5/PF: Gotta Catch em All: Optimizing Wild Empathy

    The druid ACF Rootwalker in Dungeonscape gets you Vermin Empathy. If you're really dead-set on talking to monstrous spiders (or perhaps amassing an army of Damn Crabs?), a Rootwalker Druid/Vermin Keeper might be a good way to go. Using the Verminfriend feat (BoVD) with this will let you buy some time to empathy them, and Vermin Trainer, Knight of Lolth, and Vow of the Spider Queen (all DotU) will let you do some positively terrifying things with them. If you're specced for it, Vermin Empathy can turn into basically Wild Empathy, except also creepy and with free mind blank on all your minions.
    Last edited by Fax Celestis; 2013-10-16 at 12:01 PM.

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